With opening night only one week away, the NFL office alerted all 32 teams Wednesday that the 2012 season will begin with replacement officials in place, according to a memo obtained by NFL.com and NFL Network.
Negotiations between the league and the NFL Referees' Association remain "deadlocked," according to the memo sent by Ray Anderson, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations.
In an exclusive interview that aired Wednesday on NFL Network's "NFL Total Access," Anderson said the NFL is committed to the replacement officials only on "a week-to-week-basis."
*Rosenthal: Memo part of negotiations *
Gregg Rosenthal isn't all that concerned about the NFL's memo on replacement refs. He points out it's just standard hardball. More ...
"We are committing to the replacement officials for as long as we need them to perform their services," Anderson said. "It's a week-by-week basis, but they are prepared to go the distance if required."
Anderson told "NFL Total Access" on Wednesday that he expects it would take the full-time officials seven to 10 days to prepare once an agreement is reached. The first full Sunday of action is Sept. 9.
The sides have been at a standstill since the league locked out the NFLRA in early June. Anderson said in Wednesday's memo that there remains a "considerable gap" in negotiations and no discussions currently are scheduled.
The union called the memo "consistent with the NFL's negotiating strategy."
"It now appears the NFL is willing to forego any attempt to reach a deal in the last seven days before opening night," the NFLRA said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. "It is unfortunate because the Referees want to get back on the field. Our members have been engaged in extensive preparations and are ready to go.
"If the NFL is serious about negotiating, we are ready, but we can't negotiate with ourselves."
The replacement officials have come under heavy fire throughout the preseason, with multiple players questioning their ability to institute the rules and enforce the NFL's player safety policies.
Anderson told "NFL Total Access" the league isn't concerned about the replacement officials affecting the integrity of the game.
"We are going to deploy the best we have available out there. We think they have gotten better week in and week out, and we feel they will continue to get better," Anderson said. "There is no perfect world in officiating, no one is going to be completely satisfied, whether it's current officials who will be out there working or regular officials who were out there last year.
"There's always some complaints, unfortunately reasonably, about non-perfection. But that's our world. We are very comfortable with the group of officials that will be out there beginning next week will do a good job."