The NFL and NFL Referees Association have reached a labor deal that will bring the regular officials back as soon as Thursday night's game between the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns.
The NFL and officials' union made substantial progress in negotiations that stretched Tuesday night into Wednesday night – enough to open the window of a Week 4 return.
Late Wednesday night, several sources reported a deal has been reached and crew assignments have already been set for Thursday's game. Union officials say the referees have already passed their physical exams and only need to vote to approve the eight-year agreement.
The NFL has previously said it could take a week to bring the locked-out officials back to games, but the NFLRA said its officials have conducted conference calls to get up-to-date on the new rules and are ready for their delayed start to the season.
Monday night's game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks spawned a 48-hour debate on the integrity of the NFL and the competence of its replacement officials.
The Packers were leading 12-7 with eight seconds to play in the game when Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson evaded the pass rush and lobbed a pass to the back corner of the endzone.
Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings appeared to gain clear control of the ball for the game-ending interception, but Seahawks receiver Golden Tate was able to get his arm behind the ball as the two hit the turf.
The officials ruled it a touchdown and a win for the Seahawks. The NFL released a statement Tuesday, affirming the judgment of the game's officials, but adding that a pass interference call was missed.