With the league digging in its heels about the (lesser) quality of replacement officials, the regular refs are bracing for a long standoff.
Michael Arnold, the lead negotiator for the NFL Referees Association, said the league “predetermined” a lockout strategy.
“The league has apparently predetermined that they’re going to keep us locked out until the third or fourth week of the regular season,” Arnold told Bob Glauber of Newsday. “Their strategy has always been lockout. We feel they’ve had a strategy from the beginning to lock us out.”
The league has made clear it expects replacement refs to work the regular season opener. But they’re apparently bracing for a longer term.
Arnold said there had been no negotiations since July 27, but his group isn’t ready to buckle.
“They are strong and very united,” he said. “I’ve been with this group for 18 years, and they are more united and stronger in their position than I’ve ever seen them.”
League spokesman Greg Aiello said the NFL was “available to meet with the NFLRA at any time to negotiate a new contract.”
Arnold’s not necessarily buying that.
“They told us [last month] that if this thing was going to settle, it was going to be on their terms and they were not going to make any additional offers,” he said.
Arnold would not, however, comment on the quality of the replacements, even though he did.
“There are a lot of knowledgeable football people who have commented on [them],” he said. “We think their performance is self-explanatory.”
As is the stand-off, which will continue until somebody puts pressure on the two sides to get something done.