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NFL referees ratify new 8-year contract

Zebras vote 112-5 in favor of new 8-year contract with NFL.
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Game officials Bob Waggoner, left, and Gene Steratore take the field for the first time this season before the start of the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns game at M&T Bank Stadium on September 27, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

OK, you nervous Nellies can all breathe a little easier.

While unlikely, there was still a chance NFL referees could have walked off the job again and rejected the league’s contract offer.

That would mean more replacement refs just when we thought it was safe to watch again.

Thankfully, the zebras voted overwhelmingly – 112-5 – in favor of a new 8-year contract today in Irving, Texas.

“This agreement supports long-term reforms that will make officiating better. The teams, players and fans want and deserve both consistency and quality in officiating,” commissioner Roger Goddell said in a prepared release.

“We look forward to having the finest officials in sports back on the field, and I want to give a special thanks to NFL fans for their passion. Now it's time to put the focus back on the teams and players where it belongs."

The new deal increases the average ref's salary to $205,000 by 2019 from the current $149,000 middle ground, The Associated Press reported.

More from GlobalPost: NFL, refs agree to new deal in time for Week 4

Defined benefits – the sticking point that got us into this mess – remain until 2016 or until a ref reaches 20 years services.

From there, the refs switch to defined contributions.

What the league wanted was more control over the flagmen.

After next season, the NFL can hire full-time officials (they’re all considered part-time now), train new refs and select games for them to call.

We reached this point when the league locked out its referees this summer after their contract expired.

They started the season with replacement officials from small college, arena or semi-pro leagues.

As the questionable decisions mounted, so did public pressure when it finally blew last Monday night in Seattle.

While evidence against Golden Tate’s touchdown catch on the final play might be open for debate, the blatant pass interference penalty that went unpunished should’ve handed Green Bay the win.

“The last play of the game was something that was going to happen sooner or later,” line judge Jeff Bergman told The Associated Press. “It gave us and the league an opportunity to get together and hammer out a deal that was going to get hammered out anyway.”

That led to real refs getting the biggest ovation when they arrived back to work on Thursday night for the Cleveland-Baltimore game.

At least the replacement people aren’t getting going home empty-handed.

Each head referee receives $3,500, while others get $3,000 this week despite not working.

As Sports Illustrated’s Peter King points out:

After all this, we only have one question: who were the five refs that voted against this deal?

More from GlobalPost: Anti-union Wisconsin governor supports unionized refs

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