ESPN is reporting that “an agreement in principle is at hand” between the NFL and locked-out officials, with the possibility that the regulars could be back on the field by this weekend.
But an individual within the NFL Referees Assn. told The Times on Wednesday that the sides are not on the brink of an agreement and are continuing to negotiate with the help of a federal mediator. The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak for the union, said a deal is not as close as has been reported.
It’s a common negotiating tactic for one side to say that an agreement is near, thereby ratcheting up the pressure on the other side to either a) accept the deal or b) disagree, then shoulder the blame if the talks don’t lead to a resolution. There were similar reports by various outlets during the player lockout in 2011, with one side or the other prematurely indicating an agreement was imminent.
That’s not to say a deal won’t be reached this week between the NFL and officials. But from the perspective of the officials, a deal was not imminent as of 10:30 a.m. PDT on Wednesday.