According to several reports, the NFL and the union are close to a new deal that would allow the league's regular officials to return to work, possibly as early as this weekend.

ESPN reported Wednesday that "an agreement in principle is at hand," and The New York Times reported that the sides ""were closing in" on a way to end the impasse. ESPN cited unidentified sources from both sides; the Times cited a person briefed on the negotiations.

A person familiar with the situation tells The Associated Press that the NFL and its locked-out officials were meeting Wednesday. The sides met for about 14 hours starting Tuesday into early Wednesday. They broke for a few hours before reconvening in an attempt to resolve the dispute and end the firestorm over the use of replacement refs.

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