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Nobody wins as referee lockout rolls toward season

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This is really going to happen, isn't it?

Let's face it: The replacement officials stink. A collective statement, no doubt, but one that's easy to stand behind if you watched the preseason at all.

I'm sure there are officials working these games who are every bit as capable as the locked-out first-stringers. Some might even be better, though being known as a union-crosser is unlikely to help your long-term career trajectory.

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But this preseason has included far too many clues that these officials are in over their heads. Blown calls, stammering penalty announcements, endless booth reviews. There's an overall feeling the game is simply moving too fast.

The NFL knows this, which is why NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reportedly initiated the talks between the two sides this week. No deal was struck after three days of meetings, and no new talks are scheduled. NFL Network and NFL.com reporter Albert Breer reported that one officiating source referred to the session as "not productive."

So now we head toward the regular season with the competence of game officials serving as a major subplot of the week. Who wins in this scenario? Not the NFL, not the players, not the maligned fill-ins, and not the fans.

Yes, the rare -- and almost impressive -- lose-lose-lose-lose situation.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @danhanzus.

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