On the timetable for NFL officials' return

Our long national (football) nightmare might be over, or at least close to it. If you haven't heard yet, ESPN's Chris Mortensen is reporting that the NFL and its officials' union have an agreement on a labor deal that could get the league's regular officials back on the job as early as Sunday.

I'm sure the timing is only coincidental to last Monday's fiasco at CenturyLink Field. Complete happenstance, no doubt.

In all seriousness, I'll be interested in hearing any details that emerge about the deal. Did the NFL cave on its demands, most notably for eliminating pensions, after the Green Bay Packers' 14-12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks? Did the officials meet them halfway?

Also, I wonder how the NFL will deal with the fact that the first game of Week 4 is scheduled for Thursday night between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. Assuming replacement officials work that game, would the league be comfortable with the inherent competitive disadvantage those teams would face by having substandard officiating while the rest of the league's teams get regular officials this weekend? You could argue that the Browns and Ravens would both be officiated by the same group, but in essence the NFL would be overtly providing a less competent environment than the rest of the teams get.

So I'm not completely sold on regular officials working this weekend. We could be in for one more week of lame-duck officiating. Stay tuned.