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NFL roundup: League seeking replacement refs as contract talks break down

The SportsXchange

With negotiations between the NFL and its officials broken down on a new collective bargain agreement, the league has begun the process of identifying replacements to work games this season.

The old six-year contract expired May 31 with the NFL Referees Association and attempts to reach a new deal have failed so far. The latest mediation efforts took place Sunday in Washington, D.C., the NFL said in a release Monday. Talks began last October.

"Our goal is to maintain the highest quality of officiating for our teams, players and fans, including proper enforcement of the playing rules and efficient management of our games," the NFL said in a written statement.

"We have great respect for our officials and in keeping with that view have made a proposal that includes substantial increases in compensation for all game officials."

Replacement officials could potentially come from non-BCS conferences, retired elite NCAA officials and the Arena league, ESPN.com reported. BCS conferences are run by NFL officials and that relationship is the reason the NFL will look elsewhere for subs.

Mike Arnold, chief negotiator for the NFLFA, said Monday afternoon that the league abandoned the mediation process after two sessions and had no intention to "work toward a fair agreement." He said the league sent letters to prospective replacement referees before negotiations sessions ended.

The NFL Players Association issued a statement Monday, voicing concerns about the NFL's decision to lock out referees and recruit scabs and the effect on player health and safety.

"Professional athletes require professional referees, and we believe in the NFL Referees Association's trained first responders," the statement said. "The NFLPA will continue to monitor the league's actions in this situation."

---Special master Stephen Burbank upheld NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's authority to suspend four players the league punished for alleged involvement in the Saints bounty scandal.

Burbank ruled just five days after the NFLPA hearing that the penalties were out of Goodell's CBA-granted authority and should be viewed as salary cap violations and not on-field misconduct. Burbank dismissed the grievance and said appeals should remain in the hands of the commissioner.

The NFLPA plans to appeal the ruling to an Appeals Panel. As defined by the CBA, the panel includes on representative from the NFLPA, NFL and an independent.

Another grievance by the same four players -- Jonathan Vilma, Hargrove, Will Smith and Scott Fujita -- is pending with arbitrator Shyam Das.

---Quarterback Tim Tebow will participate in the "Jets West" passing camp in southern California with starter Mark Sanchez and other teammates in a few weeks.

Sanchez invited Tebow to the weeklong workouts that Sanchez and his family have staged the past two offseasons at Mission Viejo High School, where Sanchez played before going to USC, the New York Daily News reported.

Tebow wasn't invited to a similar workout organized two months ago in Orlando by wide receiver Santonio Holmes that included Sanchez, Dustin Keller and Patrick Turner.

The Jets' minicamp is June 12-14. The team starts training camp July 26.

---Tampa Bay signed running back Doug Martin to a five-year contract, the Buccaneers announced Monday.

The team's first-round draft pick (31st overall) from Boise State is expected to compete with LeGarrette Blount for the starting job this season. Martin is considered any every-down back because of his receiving skills.

Martin, who did not participate in the Buccaneers' first round of OTAs in May because of a hamstring strain, becomes the 12th first-round pick from April's NFL draft to sign a contract.

---The Miami Dolphins signed fourth-round pick Lamar Miller to a four-year contract Monday.

Contract terms weren't disclosed, but the estimated value is $2.586 million with a signing bonus of $486,000, NFL.com reported.

The Dolphins' first-round pick, quarterback Ryan Tannehill, and third-rounder selections Michael Egnew and Olivier Vernon remain unsigned.

---Linebacker Scott Fujita will join the Cleveland Browns for their minicamp Tuesday through Thursday and said he's excited about playing this season.

Fujita is facing a three-game suspension for his role in the New Orleans Saints' bounty scandal but remains undeterred about getting back onto the field at age 33. An arbitrator ruled Monday that commissioner Roger Goodell has the authority to suspend the 11-year veteran. Fujita has appealed his punishment.

"While there have certainly been some unexpected challenges this off-season, which are beyond my control right now, I can't let that distract me from getting myself as prepared as possible to play this season," Fujita told The Plain Dealer in an email.

---Fullback Marcel Reece signed his exclusive-rights free-agent tender with the Raiders and participated in the team's OTA practice Monday.

He had stayed away from the team's offseason programs in hopes of landing a better deal, but he had little leverage - especially after veteran Owen Schmitt was signed last month. Reece has versatility in that he can play in the slot and as a downfield receiver to create mismatches.

---Defensive end Osi Umenyiora was back with the Giants on Monday after agreeing to a restructured contract last week.

He had skipped the team's offseason program until now, but still has three OTAs and a minicamp before the Giants break until training camp.

Umenyiora, 30, has 69.0 career regular season sacks, fourth on the Giants' all-time list.

On the injury front, cornerback Prince Amukamara (foot) has been cleared to resume individual work, while offensive tackle Will Beatty continues to battle a back injury that might sideline him until training camp. Free agent defensive tackle Shaun Rogers has been at the team's facilities learning the defense, but hasn't done on-field work while dealing with an elbow injury.

---Jacksonville Jaguars rookie wide receiver Justin Blackmon pleaded not guilty Monday to a charge of aggravated DUI.

Blackmon is scheduled to appear at a hearing at 10:30 a.m. on July 24. The Jaguars report to training camp on July 27.

He was arrested Sunday morning in Stillwater, Okla., and booked at Payne County (Okla.) Jail at 10 a.m. Sunday.

Blackmon was pulled over shortly after 3 a.m. Blackmon took a breathalyzer test, and his blood-alcohol level was .24, which is three times the state's legal limit.

According to Oklahoma law, a DUI charge becomes "aggravated" when the driver has a blood-alcohol level of .15 or higher.

---Safety Abram Elam signed with the Chiefs. Terms were not disclosed.

The seventh-year veteran played for the Cowboys in 2011 and has played in 92 career games, recording 365 tackles (271 solo), 5.0 sacks (-39.0 yards) and three interceptions.
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