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REFS OK DEAL IN TIME FOR SUNDAY

The regular officials will be back Sunday as the NFL restarts its season, in large measure because most realized that their labor dispute was petty compared to what the nation has been through.

The 119 officials, locked out in August after failing to come to terms on a new contract, ratified by about a 2-1 margin Wednesday a deal that will give them an immediate 50 percent pay increase.

The deal is the same in monetary value as the package proposed by the league Sept. 4, although the specifics are different. It would increase salaries by 50 percent in the first year and by 100 percent in the fourth year of a six-year deal.

Around the league

The NFL is considering playing the Super Bowl on Feb. 3 instead of Jan. 27 but the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) is scheduled to hold its convention on the Feb. 3 weekend, and New Orleans doesn't have enough hotel rooms for both. NFL and local officials are trying to persuade the organization to push its convention back a week. The NADA, so far, has said no.

NFL players and coaches will wear U.S. flag decals and patches for the rest of the season to honor the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and salute the heroes of the rescue and recovery mission.

Tennessee Titans' quarterback Steve McNair has not thrown a pass since the season opener when he bruised his passing shoulder, and his status for Sunday's game with the Jacksonville Jaguars looks doubtful.

The Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders will play Oct. 7 instead of Oct. 21 because the baseball playoffs might need the Network Associates Coliseum on the later date. Both were scheduled to be off Oct. 7. A Raiders official and one of their attorneys said those who run the Coliseum should consider this a "magnanimous" gesture by the Raiders and not to count on them being so accommodating in the future.

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