Podlesh: Progress in talks with refs a 'relief'

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears punter Adam Podlesh, who also serves as the team’s union representative, called the reported agreement between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association “a relief for everybody,” but added the situation isn’t getting much traction from teammates in the club’s locker room.

“I think everybody wanted to get it done on both sides of the negotiations,” Podlesh said. “I have to assume they wanted to find some sort of agreement. Obviously, I’m not in the middle of all that. But I think them getting some sort of common ground, getting it finished, getting to work -- just like what happened with the players and owners a couple of years ago -- is the best thing for football.”

ESPN NFL insider Chris Mortensen reported Wednesday that the league and the NFLRA made enough progress during marathon negotiating sessions that the sides have explored the possibility of the regular officials returning for this week’s slate of games.

Mortensen reported that sources expect it to take at least a week before the locked-out referees could return to action. But the NFLRA claims its 121 referees have either already passed physicals or are prepared to pass physicals in order to return to the field. In addition, the group says its referees have been trained on the new rules implemented last season.

In the absence of the NFL’s regular officials, the league had used replacement referees throughout the preseason and the first three weeks of the regular season, drawing a firestorm of criticism because of issues regarding game management, not to mention questionable calls including a decision Monday night during Green Bay’s loss at Seattle that drew nationwide scrutiny.

“Looking at it from an objective standpoint, obviously, these referees have been under much more scrutiny than the previous refs have. That being said, the way that the NFL is looked at, (the question) is (whether) our health and safety (are) put first? That's something that the NFL and the NFLPA has done leaps and bounds to improve upon and maintain,” Podlesh said. “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.”

Podlesh said it’s too early to get a read on how his teammates feel about the latest news regarding the NFL and the NFLRA reported agreement in principle.

“Until it’s actually done, in the locker room we haven’t heard too much as players,” Podlesh said. “So (relief is) not the vibe in the locker room right now.”