After three weeks of uncertainty and general ridicule, the NFL referees return to their rightful place on the field, starting tonight in Baltimore where the Cleveland Browns visit the Ravens.
The new collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the Referee's Association will last 8 years, meaning we hopefully wont have to put up with a nightmare scenario like faced on Monday night between the Packers and Seahawks until 2020 at the very earliest.
The most positive thing that we can see about the lockout ending is the return of Referee Ed Hochuli (above) and his massive 61 year old arms to our screens.
According to NFL.com, the league released the following terms of the agreement:
» The current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season (or until the official earns 20 years of service). The defined benefit plan then will be frozen.
» Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires, and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement, which will have two elements: an annual league contribution made on behalf of each game official that will begin with an average of more than $18,000 per official and increase to more than $23,000 per official in 2019, and a partial match on any additional contribution that an official makes to his 401(k) account.
» Apart from their benefit package, the game officials' compensation will increase from an average of $149,000 per year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.
» Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field.
» The NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes and can assign those additional officials to work NFL games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the NFL.
Even NFL insider Adam Schefter seemed excited about Hochuli returning.
RT @latimesfarmer: Ed Hochuli told me as soon as he found out NFL deal was done, "I dropped down on the floor and started doing pushups."
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) September 27, 2012