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NFL To Use Replacement Referees To Start The Season

The NFL said Wednesday that it plans to open the season with replacement officials.

Replacements will be on the field next Wednesday night when the Cowboys visit the Giants to kick off the season, league executive Ray Anderson told the 32 teams. 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 been fruitless. Replacements have been used throughout the preseason, with mixed results.

The head of the NFL Players Association blasted the NFL for the current labor impasse with officials and declined to rule out a possible players strike out of safety concerns.

In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, Executive Director DeMaurice Smith called the league’s lockout of officials “absurd,” adding that the NFLPA reserved “the right to seek any relief that we believe is appropriate” if it is found that the use of replacement officials endangers the welfare of the players.

“The NFL has chosen to prevent the very officials that they have trained, championed and cultivated for decades to be on the field to protect players and – by their own admission – further our goal of enhanced safety.

“That is absurd on its face.”

In 2001, the NFL used replacements for the first week of the regular season before a contract was finalized.

Anderson, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, told the clubs in a memo that the replacements will work “as much of the regular season as necessary,” adding that training with each crew will continue.

Anderson said the sides remain apart on economic issues and other matters and called the gap a considerable one.

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