With the NFL season set to begin Wednesday with replacement officials, details of failed last-minute negotiations over the weekend have caused further strain between the league and the NFL Referees Association, according to a memo distributed to all teams Sunday, a copy of which was obtained by Newsday.
According to the memo, the league said it thought it had made significant progress toward a deal late last week and that an abrupt change of direction by the union Saturday caused the talks to break down.
The two sides spoke Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and according to the memo, which was written by the league's lead attorney, Jeff Pash, an agreement seemed within reach. But Pash wrote that the union withdrew its latest counteroffer and went back to the bargaining position it held before the weekend talks began.
The memo indicated that the league was willing to increase its offer in total compensation to the officials by $1 million per year, which could be used to improve either base salary or retirement benefits. The offer would increase average salaries for officials to $189,000 per year by 2018. The memo also indicated that both sides were working toward a 10-year agreement.
The memo said that substantial progress was made in discussions with referee Jeff Triplette, who negotiated on behalf of the officials Thursday and Friday. But Pash wrote that things changed Saturday, when the talks were joined by Scott Green, president of the NFLRA, and attorney Mike Arnold, chief negotiator for the union. Pash wrote that "the officials immediately did an about-face."
Green said Triplette had "no authority to make that deal'' and that the additional $1 million per year was "nowhere near enough to conclude an agreement."
Arnold said in a statement that "the NFL is now engaged in a misinformation campaign . . . There was no agreement on Thursday or Friday to do anything other than to meet on Saturday. Any claim that any numbers were agreed to before Saturday is absolutely false."
Jones-Drew ends holdout
Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew ended his 38-day holdout -- without a new contract -- and said, "I did something I felt was right.'' He is scheduled to make $4.45 million in 2012 and $4.95 million next year . . . The Ravens signed former Patriots and Jets safety James Ihedigbo. He had 69 tackles last season with the Pats.