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BOSTON (CBS) — When the NFL ended its lockout of referees this week, ushering the end of the replacement ref era, it was not immediately clear how and why exactly the league and referee union were able to settle their differences.
A couple of days later, we’re getting some clarity.
Logically, it stood to reason that the fiasco at the end of Monday night’s Packers-Seahawks game was the final straw for owners, who then told commissioner Roger Goodell that it was time to end the lockout. While the exact details are still unclear, that assumption appears to be a bit inaccurate in terms of timing.
Former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe was a guest on Gresh & Zo on Friday afternoon, and he said that Patriots owner Robert Kraft was involved before last weekend’s slate of games began.
“I talked with Robert Kraft last week and he had been disengaged from this whole thing,” Bledsoe said. “He got involved about, I want to say, seven or eight days ago, and all of a sudden things are solved. The guy seems to have a magical touch for bringing people together and ending these things as he did with the players [in 2011] and now with the referees.”
Bledsoe’s comments coincide with a New York Times report that said when some owners refused to give any concessions to the referees in the wake of that Monday night disaster, Kraft was not among them.
“A number of owners, including, according to people with knowledge of the negotiations, the Panthers’ Jerry Richardson and the Jets’ Woody Johnson, initially dug in on Tuesday, reluctant to make any deal under such public pressure,” Judy Battista reported. “Others, including the Patriots’ Robert Kraft and the Giants’ John Mara, were concerned that damage was being done to the league by the subpar officiating and the focus on it.”
Battista also reported that Goodell relied on Kraft and Mara to help “ unite the other owners” on certain negotiating points with the referees.
Last year, Kraft played an integral role in ending the lockout of the players, with union rep Jeff Saturday saying, “Without Kraft, this deal does not get done. He is a man who helped us save football.”