Sources: No progress in talks

Updated: September 21, 2012, 9:52 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- The NFL and its locked-out officials met twice this week but remain far apart in settling their financial dispute, according to sources.

Despite substantial discussion, "significant" and "serious" economic gaps remain and no further talks are scheduled, according to a source.

The regular officials have lost an average of more than $50,000 each so far. The average official made $150,000 last year for a 20-game season. They have missed seven game assignments, including preseason.

The NFL locked out the regular officials in June and has been using replacements as the season enters its third full weekend. Many players, coaches and fans have been upset with what they say is poor officiating. The NFL has warned teams that it won't tolerate confrontational behavior toward the new officials.

Kiwanuka There's no doubt the integrity of the game has been compromised not having the regular officials out there. We've got to get that taken care of.

-- Giants LB Mathias Kiwanuka, on NFL officiating

The NFL locked out the regular officials after their contract expired. Negotiations with the NFL Referees Association broke down several times during the summer, including just before the season. This is the first time the league has used replacements since 2001.

The collection of small-college officials working the games has drawn criticism from those on the field. Monday night's game between Atlanta and Denver underlined the matter, with Broncos coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio engaging in heated arguments with officials.

In response, the league, according to NFL.com, said Thursday night that senior NFL officials called owners, general managers and coaches from all 32 teams to tell them that respect for the game demands better conduct.

NFL executive vice president Ray Anderson noted "unacceptable behavior" and added "we're not going to tolerate it." He said flags, fines and suspensions are possible for coaches or players who cross the line.

"There's no doubt the integrity of the game has been compromised not having the regular officials out there," Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka has said. "We've got to get that taken care of."

What the fans seem most annoyed with is the lack of pace to games, notably Monday night's win by the Falcons that dragged on past midnight. The NFL has said it is trying to upgrade the officiating through training tapes, conference calls and meetings.

The league and the NFLRA, which covers more than 120 on-field officials, are at odds 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 union has disputed the value of the proposal, insisting it would ultimately reduce officials' compensation.

"We just all hope -- and I'm speaking on behalf of all 31 other head coaches -- we hope they get something done," Rams coach Jeff Fisher has said. "We're trusting that they will."

Information from ESPN NFL Insider Ed Werder and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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