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ESPN's Chris Mortensen is reporting that the NFL and its referee union are so close to a new contract that they could be back to work this weekend. The Washington Post's Mark Maske had reported this morning that after a marathon late night bargaining session, the two sides had made significant progress on all but the most contentious issue — the refs' pension program. However, he said the league was steadfastly against making any more compromises. But now reports are emerging that deal "in principle" has been reached and it's possible for the matter to wrapped up by the end of this week.

Mortensen reported on SportsCenter that the deal is not yet official, but that two sides are already in discussions about what is needed to have them on the field for Sunday's games. There is one game on Thursday night, but it's unlikely that the regular referees would be back in time for that, even if the deal were signed today.

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