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Replacement refs could be in play Week 1, report says

In news sure to put a crimp in Victor Cruz's salsa, it remains possible that replacement referees could be used during the regular season.


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ESPN reported Monday that the NFL and the NFL Referees Association aren't making progress toward a new deal, according to sources familiar with the talks. One source estimated that the sides wouldn't resolve their differences until Week 3 of the regular season.

NFL.com and NFL Network's Steve Wyche previously reported the likelihood of a lingering stalemate.

"We will be prepared to start the regular season with replacement officials if we cannot reach an agreement with the NFLRA," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told NFL.com and NFL Network on Monday.

The difference between the sides is rooted in economics but includes two notable hangups:

1) The NFL would like game officials to become full-time league employees. Officials have traditionally been part-time employees, with 90 percent of the group working other jobs unrelated to football. Referees are unwilling to give up that income.

2) The NFL wants to add three additional officiating crews. The goal would be to give officials added rest and the league more options. The locked-out officials oppose increasing their roster.

Players have publicly questioned the competence of replacement refs, while coaches have privately grumbled. It remains a touchy issue for the NFL, with no end to the discomfort in sight.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @danhanzus.

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