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Replacement referees work Cowboys-Giants season opener

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The NFL assigned Jim Core to referee for the NFL season-opening game between the Super Bowl champion New York Giants XLVI and the Dallas Cowboys.

No one in the seven-man replacement crew, which worked the game because the regular officials are locked out, has more than nine years of experience, and only one member has worked Division I college games. The rest have handled lower divisions and other leagues.

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"I would love to have the best officials on the field, but I have to look at this long-term," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said when asked about the impasse with regular officials during an hour-long forum with fans from all 32 teams before the regular season opened Wednesday.

Goodell said the NFL wants to increase the number of officials to give it flexibility to determine who's on the field and to spend more time training officials.

The NFL Referees Association, which covers more than 120 on-field officials, is at odds with the league over salary, retirement benefits and operational issues. The NFL has said its offer includes annual pay increases that could earn an experienced official more than $200,000 annually by 2018. The NFLRA has disputed the value of the proposal, insisting it would ultimately reduce compensation.

"It'll get solved," Goodell insisted.

Core's replacement crew Wednesday night has Bob Shoulders as the umpire, Greg Maxwell as the head linesman, Joshua Thurow as the line judge, Thaddious Foster as the field judge, Brian Stropolo as the side judge and Larry Babcock as the back judge. Veteran NFL official Dale Hamer is the replay official.

Core has eight years of experience as a referee in Division II and III, and other levels. Shoulders has six years of experience at Division I and II. Maxwell has worked five years in Division III and other levels.

Thurow is the most experienced with nine years in Division II and III. Foster has four years in Division II, Stropolo is the least experienced with three years in Division III. Bobcock has five years in Division III and other levels.

The alternate is Tim Keese, who has five years of experience at Division II and other levels.

"Consistency is the most important thing with officiating," Goodell said.

The league plans to continue to evaluate every play, official by official, to see if they made the right call, Goodell promised. He also expects a bunch of calls Monday, one day the majority of teams play.

"Officiating is not perfect, but we believe that we have the best officials and that we can get better, and that's what we're trying to do long-term," Goodell said.

Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press

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