Replacement refs will work again with no talks planned

Tuesday, September 11, 2001

Replacement officials will work the second week of the NFL season after negotiators for the locked-out union and the league decided they were too far apart to resume talks.

Tom Condon, chief negotiator for the NFL Referees Association, offered to resume talks in a call Monday to Jeff Pash, the league's chief negotiator.

But NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said it was clear there was little hope of progress had talks reopened.

"We have notified the alternate officials they will be on the field in Week 2," Aiello said. "It was clear during an exchange of phone calls between Tom Condon and Jeff Pash that a meeting would not be productive."

Condon said the sides were "still working on it."

"We know the replacements are going to work this week but we'd like to sit down as soon as possible," Condon said Monday.

On Saturday, the NFL pulled off the table its offer for a 60 percent wage increase and the doubling of salaries by 2003. The current offer gives the officials 20 percent this year and 75 percent over five years in a seven-year deal, up by two years from the original offer.

Earlier Monday, Aiello said Pash told Condon that talks could only resume if members of the officials' four-man negotiating team were on hand to facilitate a deal.

"We want someone who can make a deal, not just someone who goes back to a committee," Aiello said.

Condon, who lives in Kansas City, was at the Chiefs-Raiders game Sunday and called it the worst officiated professional game he had ever seen. Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon, a client of Condon's agreed.

But the lack of controversial calls in 29 games worked by replacements through Monday -- 15 in the final week of preseason and 14 regular-season games on Sunday -- has encouraged the league.

Most players, fans and coaches have had few objections to the replacements, although a few -- like Washington's Bruce Smith -- vociferously denounced their work after Sunday's games.

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