NFL Looking For Replacement Refs

Talks over a new CBA with game officials has hit a standstill. Meanwhile, Anthony Hargrove and the other suspended players lose a challenge to commissioner Roger Goodell.

With negotiations between the NFL and its officials broken down on a new collective bargaing agreement, the league has begun the process of identifying replacements to work games this season.

The six-year contract with the NFL Referees Association expired May 31 and attempts to reach a new deal have failed. The latest mediation efforts took place Sunday in Washington, D.C., the NFL said in a release Monday. Talks began last October.

"Our goal is to maintain the highest quality of officiating for our teams, players and fans, including proper enforcement of the playing rules and efficient management of our games," the NFL said in a written statement.

"We have great respect for our officials and in keeping with that view have made a proposal that includes substantial increases in compensation for all game officials."

Replacement officials could potentially come from non-BCS conferences, retired elite NCAA officials and the Arena league, reported. BCS conferences are run by NFL officials and that relationship is the reason the NFL will look elsewhere for subs.

Replacements were called in to work one preseason and one regular-season game in 2001 before a deal was reached with NFL officials after the terrorist attacks.

The NFL said it will begin regional traning sessions for officials later this month.

Hargrove, others lose challenge to Goodell

Special master Stephen Burbank upheld NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's authority to suspend four players the league punished for alleged involvement in the Saints bounty scandal.

Burbank ruled just five days after the NFLPA hearing that the penalties were out of Goodell's CBA-granted authority and should be viewed as salary cap violations and not on-field misconduct. Burbank dismissed the grievance and said appeals should remain in the hands of the commissioner.

The NFLPA plans to appeal the ruling to an Appeals Panel. As defined by the CBA, the panel includes on representative from the NFLPA, NFL and an independent arbitrator.

"The NFL Players Association will appeal today's decision to the Appeals Panel provided by the CBA for the review of all system arbitrator decisions," the NFLPA said in a statement. "Any pay-to-injure program runs counter to the health and safety principles we stand for as players. However, none of the players punished in this case have seen a shred of evidence justifying the NFL's punishment.

"In the opinion, system arbitrator Stephen Burbank wrote, 'It is important to emphasize -- with respect to all of the Players -- that nothing in this opinion is intended to convey a view about the underlying facts or the appropriateness of the discipline imposed.

"The union believes that the players are entitled to neutral arbitration of these issues under the CBA and will continue to fight for that principle and to protect the fair due process rights of all players."

Burbank did ask Goodell for more precise reasoning behind Anthony Hargrove's suspension. He was suspended eight games and league spokesman Greg Aiello alleged Hargrove was found "to have lied to the league's investigators and obstructed their investigation."

The NFL argued the player behavior punishment was appropriate under the guidelines of detrimental conduct outlined by the CBA.

Another grievance by the same four players -- Jonathan Vilma, Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita -- is pending with arbitrator Shyam Das. Das was the arbitrator in the overturned steroids test case involving National League MVP Ryan Braun.

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