NFL: League, refs were close to deal Friday, but NFLRA nixed negotiations

On Saturday, we reported that the NFL and NFL Referees Association resumed talks, and those talks then broke off. With negotiations at an impasse, it appeared that there was no way the NFL-mandated lockout would end in time, and the real officials would be back on the field for Wednesday night's regular-season opener between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys.

On Sunday, Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole reported that he had received a memo from the NFL. The memo was sent to all 32 teams, and it outlined the league's version of the details of that negotiation.

According to the memo, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLRA negotiator Jeff Triplette hammered out the particulars of a deal last Thursday and Friday that would give the officials an additional $1 million per year. At that point, NFLRA President Scott Green walked in the room, said that Triplette had "no authority" to broker a deal, and the talks came to a close.

Green explained the officials' position on August 8 on CSN Washington:

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The NFL's memo stated that the "abrupt change in position ... made it impossible to make any progress toward a prompt settlement." The NFL and NFLRA reportedly started by talking about a seven-year deal, and moved the goalposts to a 10-year deal over the weekend.

The negotiations also reportedly did nothing to address one major sticking point -- an increase in the pension plan for all NFL officials. From the August 29 memo sent to all teams from NFL VP of Football Operations Ray Anderson:

The NFLRA seeks both to retain the current defined benefit pension plan for the current staff for at least another 5-6 years, and to increase the amount of the defined benefit. We have proposed to freeze the defined benefit plan (preserving all vested benefits for all officials) and replace it with a defined contribution/401(k) arrangement - the same arrangement that is in place for all other league employees and which 13 clubs have adopted. We have offered a defined contribution that would average $20,000 per year, while the officials' union has proposed a substantially higher amount.

The fact that the two sides have worked enough out to make it interesting is good news, but the two sides are far enough apart to virtually guarantee that the replacement officials will start the 2012 regular season.

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