The NFL and NFL Referees Association are still negotiating Wednesday after essentially pulling an all nighter Tuesday and could be nearing a settlement.
"I'll certainly say it sure looks good,'' NFLRA executive director Tim Millis told USA TODAY Sports' Jim Corbett today.
"Both sides are negotiating and committed to getting it done. But there's no deal right now. There's not a deal that's hanging on the table for us to sign within minutes or an hour.''
The sides have been meeting in New York since Saturday with Commissioner Roger Goodell and league counsel Jeff Pash sitting in with NFLRA negotiators led by Michael Arnold.
"The serious gap has been narrowed,'' said Millis, who is in constant touch with the negotiators.
"We're hopeful. And if there's some source from the league saying it's imminent or getting closer, that sounds like they're hopeful, too. That's a good sign.
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsaytweeted today:
"Your loud voices r heard about getting Refs back. We're desperately trying 2 get it done! We want a deal that improves officiating overall."
"Sometimes you try four times from the 1 (yard line) and don't score. And later on, you hit an 80-yard pass play and get there. It's been narrowed. But are we in the end zone yet? I don't know. But we're certainly closer than we were a week ago,'' Millis added.
Millis said the defined benefits pension fund the union hopes to have grandfathered is still in play. He added that if a deal is struck Wednesday, it would take the union at least a day to ratify it, because those votes must be in person. But there is hope the officials could still return in time for Thursday's game between the Ravens and Browns in Baltimore.
"There are 55 pages and some attachments that have to be agreed to," Millis said.
ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported earlier Wednesday that "an agreement in principle is at hand" and offered the possibility the regular officials could be on the field this week. They seem eager to return to work immediately if the schism is bridged and may merely have to jump through some administrative hoops like physicals, uniform fittings and the like.
"There are still a lot of hard feelings on both sides, a lot of people still drawing lines in the sand, at least verbally. I could see something being done by (Thursday) or it could take another week," an unnamed owner told Yahoo!'s Jason Cole.
NFL Network and ESPN have reported the sides have reached a compromise allowing for a squad of developmental officials rather than the three new crews the NFL was pushing for.
The NFL locked out its established officials in June. Talks between the sides have frequently sputtered, though Fox analyst John Lynch told The Dan Patrick Showan agreement was supposedly near prior to Week 1.
That obviously didn't happen, and the chaos since brought by the replacement crews has quickly bloomed, culminating in the Monday night debacle in Seattle where the Seahawks received what seemed like an ill-gotten victory to most on the game's final, controversial play.
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