The NFL will open the regular season next week with replacement officials and said it was prepared to use them “as much … as necessary” after that.
Replacements will be on the field beginning Wednesday, when the Dallas Cowboys visit the New York Giants in the season opener, league executive Ray Anderson told the 32 teams in a memo. Negotiations are at a standstill between the NFL and the officials’ union.
The NFL Referees Association was locked out in early June, and talks on a new collective bargaining agreement have gone nowhere. Replacements have been used throughout the preseason, with mixed results.
Anderson, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, told the clubs in a memo Wednesday that training with each crew of replacement officials will continue.
“We are not surprised, based on Ray Anderson’s statements … that the NFL was not going to reach out to us,” NFLRA spokesman Michael Arnold said. “However, this is consistent with the NFL’s negotiating strategy which has been ‘take it or leave it and lock them out.’ It now appears the NFL is willing to forego any attempt to reach a deal in the last seven days before opening night.”
In 2001, the NFL used replacements for the first week of the regular season before a contract was finalized.
The NFL Players Association, which went through a 41/2-month lockout last year before settling on a new contract, expressed disappointment about the decision to use replacements.
Indianapolis Colts safety Antoine Bethea said there is a feeling of solidarity between the players and officials.
“They’ve got to do what they’ve got to do, and we were in a similar situation a little while ago,” Bethea said. “So you can’t fault those guys for doing what they have to do.”
Anderson said the sides remain considerably apart on economic issues, including salary and retirement benefits. He also told the teams there is a substantial difference on operational issues.
“One of our key goals in this negotiation is to enhance our ability to recruit, train and replace officials who are not performing adequately,” Anderson said. “We believe that officials should be evaluated and performance issues addressed in the same way as players, coaches, club management and league staff. We have proposed several steps to accomplish this, including having a number of full-time officials and expanding the overall number of officials.”
The NFL is offering to add three full officiating crews, increasing the total number of officials to 140. The NFLRA insists the compensation being offered with such an increase would reduce the officials’ pay.
Lawrence Tynes kicked a 32-yard field goal with 1:03 to play as the Giants defeated New England, 6-3. The Giants played the majority of their starters, including quarterback Eli Manning, a little more than a quarter, while the Patriots rested almost all of their starters. … New Redskins kicker Billy Cundiff made three of four field goal attempts — and was booed by the home fans for the one he missed — in a 30-3 victory over the Buccaneers. Kirk Cousins was 15 of 27 for 222 yards and an interception for the Redskins. … Orie Lemon returned an interception 26 yards for a touchdown, and No. 3 running back Phillip Tanner had a 1-yard score as the Cowboys routed the Dolphins, 30-13.