With the league and the locked-out officials talking on Friday and Saturday and then not talking any more, it looks like the NFL will be using replacement officials for Week One.
That surely frustrates many fans. But it also frustrates the league.
Per multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, the NFL believes that the NFL Referees Association has been changing and shifting positions unpredictably — a “moving target,” as one source explained it.
Whether it’s part of a deliberate plan or whether it’s simply happening randomly, it’s keeping a deal from being reached.
Maybe it is deliberate. No amount of wagon-circling by the NFL will change the fact that the replacements need to be replaced. And so it’s possible that the NFLRA senses weakness and is turn pushing for a strong deal, assuming that the deal will get better after a regular-season week with the junior junior varsity.
It would be easy for the NFLRA to justify its strategy by claiming that this is merely a business negotiation; after all, that’s the approach the league has been taking. But someone has to bend for the good of the game.
The league, by agreeing to negotiate after weeks of assuming a take-it-or-leave-it posture, has taken a giant leap away from its hardheaded ways. Now, the officials need to be willing to take at least one small step toward ensuring that the sport will have the best available personnel to supervise the games.