NFL Refs Approve Deal, Scramble for Sunday Return

NFL referees approved a new eight-year deal with the league on a 112-5 vote Saturday, officially ending a lockout that led to three weeks of increasingly chaotic games run by replacement officials who drew the attention of everyone from the average fan to President Barack Obama, The Associated Press reported. After a few hours of final preparations with league officials, the next stop for the refs who gathered in Irving, Texas, was the airport. They'll be heading straight to their Sunday game sites. "It was pretty much 'Come on in and vote,'" said Scott Green, president of the referees' association. "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." The deal came quickly after three weeks of escalating difficulties for league-hired replacement refs, culminating in a disputed touchdown call that decided Monday night's Packers-Seahawks game. With a tentative deal in place, league referees returned to cheers at Thursday night's game between Cleveland and Baltimore. The tentative contract called 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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