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NFL 'predetermined' officials' lockout, referees' attorney says

There doesn't seem to be an end in sight for NFL game-day officials who have been locked out and in contract discussions for entire offseason.

Replacement officials have taken over referee duties as there is no indication that the league and the NFL Referees Association will resume talks.

The NFLRA's lead negotiator, Michael Arnold, said Wednesday that the NFL has been set on maintaining the lockout for some time.

"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 told Newsday. "Their strategy has always been lockout. We feel they've had a strategy from the beginning to lock us out."

Greg Aiello, the NFL's senior vice president of communications, said Thursday the NFL is "available to meet with the NFLRA at any time to negotiate a new contract."

NFL Commisioner Roger Goodell has characterized the differences between the two parties as "philosophical." The NFL wants to add more crews and make some of the refs full-time employees. Currently, all game officials are part-time.

"We're anxious to get a deal done, but it has to get done that it's going to help us for the long term," Goodell said at NFL Fantasy Draft Week in New York City. "It's not a short-term issue."

But Arnold believes the NFL is in no rush to come to a resolution and the two sides' differences won't be reconciled in the foreseeable future.

"(The NFL) 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," Arnold said.

Replacement officials are slated to work when the regular season begins on Sept. 5 and Commissionder Roger Goodell expects "a very credible job"from the group. Although Arnold did not directly comment on several controversial calls by the replacements, he said, "We think their performance is self-explanatory."

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