NEW YORK (AP) -- The NFL soon could have its regular officials back on the field, thanks to a deal forged amid the grief over last week's terrorist attacks.
A league source told The Associated Press on Monday that the NFL and the officials have agreed to a new contract, all but ending the lockout that forced the use of replacements for two weeks.
Tom Condon, the union's negotiator denied there had been a deal but acknowledged that one might be close. NFL spokesman Joe Browne also had no comment.
"We will only comment when a deal is ratified and in place," Browne said.
However, league sources said the union's executive committee met Tuesday morning to vote on whether to submit the agreement, reached with two of the four-man negotiating committee, to the members. The 119 officials would then vote on the deal via e-mail, a process the league said expected to be finished by Wednesday morning.
Ratification could clear the way for the regulars to be back at work this weekend, when the NFL resumes play after a week off in the aftermath of the attacks in New York and Washington.
Sources on both sides said the agreement was speeded up following the attacks, which cast a whole new perspective on sports events in general. Both sides agreed the horror and destruction trivialized the labor dispute.
The deal is for the same amount of money the league had offered on Sept. 4, although some details are different.
It calls for a 50 percent raise this season and 100 percent by the fourth year of a six-year contract, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The deal was worked out with Bill Carollo, the executive director of the NFL Referees Association, and Jeff Bergman, two of the four members of the negotiating committee.
One official, who also asked anonymity, confirmed that Dan Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jeff Pash, the league's lead negotiator, had been talking with Carollo and Bergman. Rooney, one of the NFL's most respected owners, has been the catalyst in ending past labor disputes -- the man the league brings in when it wants to make a deal.
The 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.
When talks broke off nearly two weeks ago, the NFL had cut back its offer to a 20 percent increase in the first year, the offer it had on the table last June 12. Its last offer to the officials before the lockout was a 60 percent increase the first year, with a doubling of officials' salaries in two years.
The NFL source said this deal has the same total value as that one.
Under the old agreement, which was signed in 1994, a fifth-year official, about the average, made $42,295 last year. An official entering his 10th season made $64,215 last year.
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