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Report: NFL, refs close to deal; could return by this weekend

Updated: September 27, 2012 9:18AM

“Close’’ was the buzzword around Halas Hall on Wednesday afternoon, as multiple reports had the referee lockout with the NFL nearing an end.

According to several reports, the NFL and the referees’ union were putting the final touches on a new deal that could have the regular officials back on the field as early as this week.

ESPN reported early Wednesday afternoon that “an agreement in principle is at hand,” with reporting that there was “a tentative deal between the NFL and locked-out officials.’’

“I keep hearing close,’’ Bears cornerback D.J. Moore said. “I want to see done.’’

While all involved were still waiting official confirmation from the league, what needed no confirmation was that the NFL was under fire over the last 48 hours like no time in league history after Monday night’s game between Seattle and Green Bay.

A last-second Hail Mary was ruled a game-winning touchdown for the Seahawks, even when it appeared that Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings had control of the football all the way to the ground in the end zone. There was building disdain for the replacement referees even before that “Monday Night Football’’ nationally televised game, but the blown call led to an eruption, not only by fans and players, but even politicians and President Barack Obama.

“NFL fans on both sides of the aisle hope the refs’ lockout is settled soon,’’ The President tweeted.

Bears punter Adam Podlesh is the union player representative for the team, and minutes before taking the field for the Wednesday afternoon practice said that all was quiet as far as the league reaching out to the players and keeping them in the loop.

“Looking at it from an objective standpoint, obviously, these referees have been under much more scrutiny than the previous refs have,’’ Podlesh said. “That being said, the way that the NFL has looked at ... is our health and safety put first? That’s something that the NFL and the NFLPA has done leaps and bounds to improve upon and maintain. And this is a situation that we’ve looked at before. Is our health, our safety in a game that’s a very hard game — you’ve got a lot of bad hits, it’s a dangerous game – are we put in the best situation? Is our health and safety procured? That’s something that’s a question mark right now.”

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