With hopes dwindling for a quick settlement of the lockout of game-day officials, the NFL Referees Association's lead negotiator, Michael Arnold, said yesterday that the NFL has "predetermined" there will be a lockout. He also said there is no sign that either side will resume talks to head off the work stoppage heading into the regular season.
"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, a Kansas City-based lawyer, told Newsday. "Their strategy has always been lockout. We feel they've had a strategy from the beginning to lock us out.''
NFL vice president of football operations Ray Anderson told Newsday on Monday that he expects the replacement officials to be working when the regular season begins Sept. 5. He also suggested the lockout could last quite some time.
Arnold said there have been no negotiations since July 27. He said his constituents remain committed to getting what they consider a fair deal.
"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."
Greg Aiello, the NFL's senior vice president of communications, said the league hired replacement officials "when the NFLRA told us of its intention to have its members authorize the union leadership to call a strike. We had to ensure there would be no disruption to NFL games this season.''
Aiello said the league is "available to meet with the NFLRA at any time to negotiate a new contract."
Arnold said he does not believe the NFL is serious about negotiating soon. "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.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said yesterday that the league is "anxious to get a deal done, but it has to . . . help us for the long term. It's not a short-term issue.''
He expressed confidence in the replacements. "These officials have been trained,'' he said. "We think they'll do a very credible job.''
Arnold wouldn't comment directly on the performance of the replacement officials. "There are a lot of knowledgeable football people who have commented on [them]," he said. "We think their performance is self-explanatory."