Officials ratify contract, will return Sunday
Thursday, September 20, 2001
NEW YORK -- The locked-out NFL officials will be back on the field Sunday when the league resumes play after postponing last weekend's games following the terrorist attacks.
NFL spokesman Joe Browne said the league was told by Bill Carollo, the union's executive director, that a majority of the 119 officials ratified a contract that had been agreed to Sunday night and voted on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Browne said he wasn't given the vote total, but Tom Condon, the negotiator for the union, said the vote was about 2-to-1 to accept the contract and get back to work.
Condon said the terrorist attacks that caused a week's hiatus were a major incentive.
"You can't ignore the occurrences around the country and the fact that our concerns were pale in comparison," he said. "So we thought it was important to get back for the restart of the season."
The deal is the same in total monetary value as the package proposed by the league on Sept. 4, although the specifics are different. It would double salaries in the first year and increase them by 100 percent in the fourth year of a six-year deal.
The officials missed two weeks -- the last one of preseason games and the first week of the regular season. Replacement officials, who are guaranteed four weeks' salary at $2,000 a week, worked the final week of the preseason and the first games of the regular season without any game-turning bad calls.
The talks had been going on sporadically since the old contract expired last March.
Condon said he felt the union had done as best it could.
"There was nothing left at the table for us," he said.
A basic package was put in place Sunday night in Pittsburgh in negotiations between Carollo and Jeff Bergman for the union and Steelers owner Dan Rooney and Jeff Pash, the NFL's lead negotiator.
Carollo and Bergman were chosen because they were considered less confrontational than Ed Hochuli, who had done the bulk of the negotiating. But Carollo and Bergman were in touch with Hochuli throughout the negotiations.