Report: Refs will return on Thursday night after reaching deal with NFL

After 48 regular season games that nearly brought the National Football League to its knees and turned the league’s officiating into a recurring national joke, the NFL and the referees union have reportedly agreed to a new eight-year deal and they’ll be back on the job starting Thursday night.

There had been reports all day, first from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, that something was perhaps imminent. As Judy Battista of The New York Times indicated around 10 pm, the two sides were already close to a deal that would have the actual, locked-out NFL referees in place to work assignments for this weekend’s slate of games. Now, it’s a reality.