Never have officials from a sports league been so welcome.
A tentative agreement was reached last night between the NFL and its officials, ending the labor dispute between the two sides. The bottom line is this: The veteran referees are back and will be in action tonight in Baltimore when the Ravens play host to the Browns.
After two days of marathon negotiations, and mounting frustration throughout the league, the NFL and the officials' union announced at midnight last night that a tentative eight-year agreement had been reached to end a lockout that began in June.
The deal came on the heels of Seattle's chaotic last-second win over Green Bay on Monday night in which the replacement officials struggled.
The agreement hinged on working out pension and retirement benefits for the officials, who are part-time employees of the league. The tentative pact calls for their salaries to increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.