NFL reportedly seeks replacement refs; contract talks ongoing

The NFL and its officials continue to negotiate a contract that would have them in place for the start of the 2012 season, but the league reportedly has initiated contingency plans to find potential replacements.

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According to FoxSports.com, the NFL suggested in a letter to its chief recruiter of officials, Ron Baynes, that he identify good candidates among recently retired college officials, lower-division college officials and "professional league and semi-professional league officials ... who have the ability to work higher levels but just got overlooked."

"This is a contingency plan to make sure the NFL season will continue on schedule as planned," Baynes said.

The league's agreement with its regular officials expired after last season. The NFL last used replacement officials briefly in 2001, but reached an agreement with its regular officials after the first week of the regular season.

"Negotiations are continuing," league spokesman Greg Aiello told NFL.com's Steve Wyche via email. "We are optimistic that there will be a successful resolution."

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