NFL officials sign off on new agreement, head back to work

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IRVING, Texas — NFL officials ended their labor dispute with the league by approving a new eight-year contract with a 112-5 vote Saturday, then hustled off to the airport to get to work.

Next stop, stadiums around the country.

And, the officials hope, anonymity.

“The last Super Bowl that I worked, when we got in the locker room, I said, ‘You know, the best thing about this game, nobody will remember who refereed this game,’ ” said Scott Green, the president of the referees’ association. “That’s how we like to work.”

The vote ended a labor spat that created three weeks of increasingly chaotic games run by replacement officials who drew criticism of everyone from the average fan to President Obama.

“It was pretty much ‘Come on in and vote,’ ” Green said. “We’re going to talk football now. We’re going to stop talking about CBAs and lockouts, and now we’re going to talk about rules and video and getting ourselves ready to work football games.”

They might get ovations similar to the one bestowed on the crew that worked Thurs­day’s Cleveland-Balti­more game with the tentative deal in place.

The referees met for about an hour and a half Friday night to go over the contract, then gathered for another 30 minutes Saturday morning before approving the contract.

“We are obviously pleased to hear it,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Saturday.

Because they were aware of the financial parameters, most of the discussion involved non-economic issues such as year-round work and developmental squads, said Tim Millis, the association’s executive director.

The deal came together quickly this week after an increasing chorus of complaints became impossible to ignore when a disputed touchdown call on the final play gave the Seattle Seahawks a victory over the Green Bay Pack­ers Monday night.

By late Wednesday, the sides had a contract calling for refs’ salaries to increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.


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