Thursday Night Football will see this season's first action by unionized referees thanks in large part to the preparation of veteran official, Ed Hochuli.
The news football fans were waiting to hear broke around midnight. The NFL Referees Association and the NFL owners have reached an agreement to end the lockout.
All of the details of the agreement have not yet been released. However, this much was reported on NFL.com.
Earlier Wednesday, the league and referees agreed to create a developmental program as a compromise to the NFL's demand for the addition of 21 officials to the current contingent of 121 NFLRA members, per an NFLRA source. The pool of money for the existing officials also will remain the same.
Adam Schefter of ESPN also reported additional news:
Current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through 2016 season (or until official… say.ly/HNb4fYu— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 27, 2012
The NFLRA and NFL owners will meet early Thursday morning to ratify the deal. The Thursday Night matchup between Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens and Brandon Weeden and the Cleveland Browns will have a union referee crew on hand to officiate the game.
Super Referee, Ed Hochuli, has kept the union officials up-to-date on the rules while holding regular Tuesday night rules related conference calls with between 90 and 110 referees in attendance. Additionally, he has kept them sharp by giving them pop quizzes. Per an anonymous officiating source to Peter King of Sports Illustrated:
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"That's one of the reasons why the officials will be up to date and ready to go...Ed grabbed the bull by the horns and made sure that whenever this thing ended, the regular officials would be ready to go back to work immediately.''
Not only will the "real" refs be working Thursday, but they will be prepared to work to their high officiating standards...which is to say that America will be ready to complain about bad calls—perhaps, just less frequently.
The question at hand here is will bringing Ed Hochuli (and the rest of the regular officials) back will be enough to salvage this season.
Plenty of talking heads have weighed in over the past two weeks—and especially during the past few days, and many have contended that this season will have an asterisk mark next to it. Yesterday, on ESPN's First Take, guest debater, rapper Snoop Dogg, equated this season with the 1987 "replacement player" season—as if three weeks of bad officiating make a whole year.
For the most part, each team has had to endure its fair share of missed, bad or blown calls in every game. And, with this past Monday Night Football game being the exception, no other game—in the court of public and media opinion—has had any calls that significantly affected the final score in one direction or the other.
The win, for the Seattle Seahawks, Monday night may or may not prove to make a difference in the long-term. With the victory, the Seahawks are tied for second in the NFC West with the San Francisco 49ers, behind the unbeaten Arizona Cardinals. Over the course of the season, as things take their natural course, we may see this division play out the way many analysts and experts expected, with the Niners winning and making the playoffs.
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Green Bay, on the other hand, was dealt a loss by the controversial "simultaneous catch" call. And, while San Francisco has seen its divisional foes start the season with improved play, many would contest that the NFC West is not as tough of a division as the NFC North. Green Bay now has its second conference loss, which could have significance in determining who wins the division [if they don't beat their rivals outright] as well as having a potential impact on playoff positioning.
The Packers remaining schedule is favorable, and this year more than any other, their divisional foes have the look of being quite beatable...so, perhaps they will still manage to win the NFC North and secure a good playoff spot.
The truth is, only time will tell how major (or minor) the impact of the replacement referees will be. And considering that Green Bay is 1-0 in their division and has a favorable schedule remaining, if they don't make the playoffs—which might be the only scenario in which the argument that this season has been ruined by the refs could be made—the Packers will have only themselves to blame.