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NFL, locked-out refs resume negotiations

The NFL and its locked-out officials exchanged information and numbers on Friday, according to a source with direct knowledge of the discussions.

The source said there had yet to be a formal meeting between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association as of 2:30 p.m. ET, but the talks are significant in that there haven't been negotiations since late July.

ESPN's Darren Rovell reported that the two sides are more than $45 million apart over the next seven seasons. The union and NFL pushed back against the report, both separately saying that the reported gap is off mark.

"Reports on the economic gap between the NFL and NFLRA are inaccurate," the union said in satement. "Ongoing negotiations with the NFL will be conducted in a confidential and professional manner."

The talks come two days after the NFL sent a memo to all 32 clubs alerting them to expect replacement officials in Week 1 of the regular season. A number of league executives viewed the memo as a warning shot aimed at the officials in an attempt to spur talks.

On Thursday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stressed the need for real talks.

"It takes a negotiation," Goodell said. "We know a little bit about negotiations. We've been through them with the players, and we've been through them in a variety of different contexts. We're looking at this for the long term, not the short term. And the long-term goal is to make officiating better and to improve the officiating. That takes a lot of work, and we need to have the flexibility to make sure we can ensure the best performance on the field from our officials, as well as addressing the economic issues."

When asked again Thursday if there still was time to get a deal done with the locked-out officials, Goodell said: "We're, right now, planning on putting the replacement officials on the field. We would love to get an agreement. We respect our officials, and we'd work all night to get it done."

NFL executive vice president Ray Anderson said Wednesday on NFL Network's "NFL Total Access" that replacement officials are being evaluated on a "week-to-week basis."

NFLRA spokesman Mike Arnold said Thursday the economic gap between the NFL and NFLRA remains workable -- at, per his figures, $6,000 per club per week over the life of the deal. Benefits are also an issue.

The referees have been looking to retain their pension plan, while the NFL's demand has been to change it to a 401(k) retirement plan. Arnold said the union offered a compromise that would grandfather in the existing officials' pension plans and have new officials receive the 401(k) plan.

The NFL said it did offer pay increases between 5 percent and 11 percent for each individual official.

The regular season kicks off Wednesday with the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants hosting the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer.

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