A deal is reached: The real referees are back!


A deal is reached: The real referees are back!

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- The NFL and the referees' union reached a tentative contract agreement at midnight Thursday, ending an impasse that began in June when the league locked out the officials and used replacements instead."Our officials will be back on the field starting tomorrow night" for the Cleveland-Baltimore game, Commissioner Roger Goodell said after a day of marathon negotiations.With Goodell at the table, the sides concluded two days of talks with the announcement of a tentative eight-year deal, which must be ratified by 51 percent of the union's 121 members. They plan to vote Friday."Welcome back REFS," Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller tweeted.The replacements worked the first three weeks of games, triggering a wave of frustration that threatened to disrupt the rest of the season. After a missed call cost the Green Bay Packers a win on a chaotic final play at Seattle on Monday night, the two sides really got serious."We are glad to be getting back on the field for this week's games," referees' union president Scott Green said.The union was seeking improved salaries, retirement benefits and other logistical issues for the part-time officials. The NFL has proposed a pension freeze and a higher 401(k) match, and it wants to hire 21 more officials to improve the quality of officiating. The union has fought that, fearing it could lead to a loss of jobs for some of the current officials, as well as a reduction in overall compensation.The NFL claimed its offers have included annual pay increases that could earn an experienced official more than 200,000 annually by 2018. The NFLRA has disputed the value of the proposal, insisting it means an overall reduction in compensation.Replacement refs aren't new to the NFL. They worked the first week of games in 2001 before a deal was reached. But those officials came from the highest level of college football; the current replacements do not. Their ability to call fast-moving NFL games drew mounting criticism through Week 3, climaxing last weekend, when ESPN analyst Jon Gruden called their work "tragic and comical."Those comments came during "Monday Night Football," with Seattle beating Green Bay 14-12 on a desperation pass into the end zone on the final play. Packers safety M.D. Jennings had both hands on the ball in the end zone, and when he fell to the ground in a scrum, both Jennings and Seahawks receiver Golden Tate had their arms on the ball.The closest official to the play, at the back of the end zone, signaled for the clock to stop, while another official at the sideline ran in and then signaled touchdown.The NFL said in a statement Tuesday that the touchdown pass should not have been overturned -- but acknowledged Tate should have been called for offensive pass interference before the catch. The league also said there was no indisputable evidence to reverse the call made on the field.That drew even louder howls of outrage. Some coaches, including Miami's Joe Philbin and Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis, tried to restore some calm by instructing players not to speak publicly on the issue.Fines against two coaches for incidents involving the replacements were handed out Wednesday.New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick was docked 50,000 for trying to grab an official's arm Sunday to ask for an explanation of a call after his team lost at Baltimore. And Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was tagged for 25,000 for what the league called "abuse of officials" in the Redskins' loss to Cincinnati on Sunday. Two other coaches, Denver's John Fox and assistant Jack Del Rio, were fined Monday for incidents involving the replacements the previous week."I accept the discipline and I apologize for the incident," Belichick said.Players were in no mood for apologies from anyone."I'll probably get in trouble for this, but you have to have competent people," Carolina receiver Steve Smith said. "And if you're incompetent, get them out of there."Added Rams quarterback Sam Bradford: "I just don't think it's fair to the fans, I don't think it's fair to us as players to go out there and have to deal with that week in and week out. I really hope that they're as close as they say they are."They were. Finally.

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Scott Brooks credits Wizards' front office for decisions on rookies 'that fit our DNA'

Scott Brooks credits Wizards' front office for decisions on rookies 'that fit our DNA'

The Wizards didn't have a draft pick in June, and they passed on buying a pick because president Ernie Grunfeld anticipated he could get exactly what Scott Brooks needed with rookie free agents. Daniel Ochefu, Sheldon McClellan and Danuel House proved him to be correct.

"It says a lot about the organization when you don’t have a draft pick and we have three guys make our team being true rookies," Brooks said Saturday after releasing three players with NBA experience in Johnny O'Bryant, Casper Ware and Jarell Eddie. "Ernie and the staff did a great job of finding three players that fit our DNA. I’m excited about it. They give us youthful athleticism. They all bring a unique talent to our team. Will they play much this year? I’m not sure. They’re going to give us great energy and great effort."

All three have good size and seemed to fit what Brooks preached since Day 1 of training camp in September: A defense-first mentality.

"I know how important every member of the team is. It’s not just the guys who play. It’s not the guys who get all the shots," said Brooks, who can relate to being on the end of the bench during 10 years in the league himself. "It’s the guy who helps those guys get shots, who helps those guys in practice are the guys who make up the true character of your team.”

While House and McClellan appeared to be locks from early on in the process, despite scant playing time towards the end of the preseason, Ochefu gained steam as the process wore on. 

“He has a skill-set that really makes him to be able to compete at this level. He plays hard and he’s a really good passer," Brooks said. "Coach Jay (Wright) and Villanova did a great job of teaching him how to roll to the basket. He has great hands and to be able to kick out and making the right plays. And he’s a great guy. He has high character and connects with all the guys.

"When you’re putting your team together you want to make sure those guys at the end of your roster are the personalities that can handle not playing consistently. They’re not going to rest and relax because they made it. You want those guys to keep pushing, keep playing keep working and grinding out every day and we picked three great ones.”

Buying a second-round draft pick can be tricky since players selected after the first round are non-guranteed. The Cleveland Cavaliers paid $2.4 million to the Atlanta Hawks for the No. 54 pick to select Kay Felder. The Golden State Warriors paid $2.4 million to the Milwaukee Bucks to Patrick McCaw at No. 38. 

Both have made their teams' roster, but history shows that second-round picks are more difficult to gauge and tend to jump around to other teams before finding their footing. By going the free-agent route, the Wizards were able to get what they wanted minus the risk of paying a few million to another team for the draft position and still have flexibiltiy in place beacuse Ochefu, House and McClellan are on non-guranteed deals. 

The leverage that the Wizards had to attract quality free agents to mini-camp and eventually training camp was simple. They had the roster spots open that many other teams did not.

MORE WIZARDS: Wizards pick up Oubre's option: What it means

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Wizards pick up 3rd-year option on Kelly Oubre's contract

Wizards pick up 3rd-year option on Kelly Oubre's contract

The third-year option on Kelly Oubre for the 2017-18 season has been exercised by the Wizards, league sources tell CSNmidatlantic.com on Saturday.

Oubre, who will make $2 million for this season, is due to get a bump to $2.1 million for next year. As a first-round draft pick, his first two years in the league are fully guaranteed and the team has the option to retain his rights in Years 3 and 4. The Wizards had to make the move, which was a formality, before the regular season starts next week.

Oubre is expected to be the primary backup for Otto Porter at small forward in his first season playing for coach Scott Brooks.

His numbers and playing time were modest as a rookie as he was not used much under then-coach Randy Wittman, but Oubre's length, athleticism and defensive instincts should make him a better fit. He averaged 3.7 points and 2.1 rebounds last season in 63 appearances.

The Wizards made a deal on draft night in 2015 with the Atlanta Hawks to move up to acquire Oubre for Jerian Grant. 

CSNmidatlantic.com reported Aug. 1 that picking up the option on Oubre was a foregone conclusion. In exit interviews following a 41-41 season that landed them out of the playoffs, players told majority owner Ted Leonsis that Oubre should've played more because of his energy and defense.

When Oubre was acquired as a 19-year-old with one year of college at Kansas, president Ernie Grunfeld projected it would take him 2-3 years to develop. 

MORE WIZARDS: Wizards roster skews younger, more athletic under Brooks