NFL plans for referee lockout

Updated: September 10, 2012, 9:14 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

With no resolution to talks between the NFL and its locked-out referees in sight, the league has devised a schedule for replacement referees through the first five weeks of the season, a league official told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Monday.

The league and the NFL Referees Association, which covers more than 120 on-field officials, are at odds over salary, retirement benefits and operational issues.

In early June, the league locked out the officials, who are part-time NFL employees, after their collective bargaining agreement expired. The NFL Referees Association and the league met for three days at the beginning of September before talks collapsed.

The NFL has recently 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 their compensation.

Replacement officials becoming more entrenched in the season comes on the heels of Buffalo Bills marquee free-agent acquisition Mario Williams ripping them for not calling numerous illegal hands to the face penalties on New York Jets right tackle Austin Howard in his team's 48-28 loss Sunday.

"Pass blocking doesn't consist of illegal hands to the face just about every play, which, when somebody tells you that, and you're five yards away from it, and you walk away like you don't see him telling you you're getting punched in the face every time, then that dictates somebody like myself having to take care of that on my own," said Williams, who was held without a sack or quarterback pressure in his first regular season game with the Bills after signing a six-year contract that could be worth up to $100 million with Buffalo in the offseason.

The refs also came under scrutiny for mistakenly awarding the Seahawks a fourth timeout in their eventual loss to the Cardinals on Sunday.

"It was my error," referee Bruce Hermansen said in a statement after the Cardinals won, 20-16. "We gave them (Seattle) the additional timeout because of the incomplete pass stopping the clock before the injury occurred. When in effect, the clock has no bearing on the play at all, whether it's stopped or running, we should not have given them the additional timeout."

Information from The Associated Press and ESPNNewYork.com's Mike Mazzeo was used in this report.

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