The NFL will not settle its labor dispute with the NFL Referees Association by the start of the 2012 season, and replacement officials will continue to call games during Week 1.
CBS Sports’ Mike Freeman reported the news via Twitter.
Memo sent from league office today to all NFL teams: replacement refs will start regular season. More to come.— mike freeman (@realfreemancbs) August 29, 2012
Talks to iron out a new collective bargaining agreement between the league and its officials fell apart earlier this summer, with the NFLRA thoroughly dissatisfied with the NFL’s offer. The previous agreement ended after this past season.
The officials and the league are far apart on issues over incremental pay raises and pension packages, as noted by USA Today.
The replacement officials have refereed every preseason game and their performances have been met with a significant amount of criticism.
I think Mike Pereira has made his comments on the officials. I don’t know who knows more about NFL officiating than Mike Pereira, so we’ll leave it to him. I’m just trying to coach our team and get our team better. I’m not worried about what everybody else is doing; it’s not my job.
Pereira—a former vice president of NFL officiating—told WSCR-AM, a Chicago radio station, “I feel bad for the replacement people. They're so overwhelmed,” via The Sports Xchange.
The outcry over the officiating has been consistent across the league, and with the added pressure of regular-season games, the NFL is setting itself up for harsh criticism.
NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith has already started the ball rolling, telling Sports Illustrated’s Jim Trotter, "The only conclusion that I have [about the use of replacement officials] is that the league cares more about money than it does about the experience of the [regular] referees as a vehicle to increase player safety."
Roger Goodell and the NFL stand firmly behind the replacement officials and believe that they will carry out their task of refereeing regular season games at an adequate level, as noted by ESPN.com.
UPDATE: Wednesday, August 29 at 3:50 p.m. ET
The NFL Network's Albert Breer believes that the two sides may budge before the season starts.
Just saying I wouldn't totally rule out Week 1 with real refs ... Isn't far-fetched to think this is a ploy to spark negotiations.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 29, 2012
As Breer wisely points out, it is difficult to take anything at face value during heated negotiations such as the ones between the NFL and NFLRA. More news is likely to come in the next week regarding this situation.