NEW YORK -- The NFL's on-field officials say the league planned to lock them out rather than negotiate a new contract.
Members of the NFL Referees Association were locked out June 3 after talks broke down. The league has been contacting replacement officials.
"Lockout seems to be their negotiating strategy with everyone," said referee Scott Green, president of the NFLRA, clearly referring to the lockout of the players in 2011. "We don't want to be locked out. We want to get back to the table and get this resolved."
But no talks are scheduled.
Green and past NFLRA president Ed Hochuli say the NFL jeopardizes the safety of the players, as well as the integrity of the game, by considering using officials they believe are unqualified. None of those officials will come from the top college division because they are barred from accepting NFL jobs by the colleges, Green said Wednesday.
"To take seven officials who have not worked Division I (college) games or not worked the last several years," he said, "and to put them on the field has got to be pretty unsettling not only to the players and coaches, but to the fans."
The NFL later issued a statement in response to the referees' claims.
"We only began the process of hiring replacements when the NFLRA told us of its intention to have its members authorize the union leadership to call a strike," the statement reads. "In order to ensure that there is no disruption to NFL games this season we began last month hiring and training replacement officials. These high-quality officials will be prepared to work preseason games, beginning with the Pro Football Hall of Fame game on Aug. 5. We have made substantial investments in training despite the efforts of the NFLRA to denigrate the replacements and disrupt the training process.
"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. We are confident that these game officials will enforce rules relating to player safety. Contrary to NFLRA leadership, we do not believe that players will "play dirty" or intentionally break the rules."
The officials say their wage offer was for a smaller increase than they received in the collective bargaining agreement that expired in May. They said it would cost each of the 32 teams $100,000 per year to meet that proposal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.