The NFL is putting out word to its locked-out officials that the league is ready, willing and able to start the regular season with replacement refs.
League executives told Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter of ESPN today that the league office foresees starting the regular season with replacements, and although we don’t know who those unnamed league executives are, the fact that they’re putting it out there is a strong signal that they want the NFL Referees Association to know that they’re serious about playing hardball. The league wants the officials to think that if they don’t give in, they’re going to be watching the start of the season from their couches, while the replacement officials are working the games and collecting the paychecks.
According to the report, the NFL and the officials disagree about how much the officials should get paid, but they disagree about more than that: They also disagree about the NFL’s desire to add three more crews of officials, so that there’s a bigger pool to draw from — and therefore more officials ready to go if the officials who are consistently missing calls get fired.
The NFL also wants at least some of its officials to become full-timers. Working as an official in the NFL is currently a part-time job, and the vast majority of officials have another source of income. Those officials don’t want to lose that other source of income, but the league wants at least some of them to do nothing but work on officiating.
So far, replacement officials have worked 16 preseason games. If there’s not movement in the contract stalemate soon, replacement officials will work at least 16 regular-season games, too.