ESPN's Chris Mortensen is reporting the NFL and the NFL Referees Association made enough progress in negotiations Tuesday night that the possibility of the locked-out officials returning in time to work this week's games has been discussed, according to sources on both sides.
Another source tells Mortensen that an agreement in principle is at hand.
Mortensen says league sources believe it would take at least a week to get the locked-out officials on the field. However the NFLRA says its 121 referees have been trained on the new rules implemented last season, have already passed physicals or are prepared to pass physicals immediately.
Mortensen says both sides have made concessions on previous sticking points such as a taxi squad of 21 new officials and pension plans. Sources say the final meaningful hurdle is getting the referees a little more money. Mortensen says the NFLRA is prepared to accept a new agreement primarily in the form of a "ratification bonus," which would compensate its 121-member union for concessions it is willing to make.
The NFLRA's collective bargaining agreement expired last October and both sides have been in talks ever since. The NFL has been using replacement officials throughout its preseason and first three games of the regular season.