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September 5th, 2012
06:08 AM ET

Will NFL replacement refs endanger players? Sports Illustrated Video's Maggie Gray says it's 'impossible' to make up for experience gap

(CNN) - The big calls in the NFL's opening week won't be made by the league's veteran referees, the referees' top negotiator said Saturday. The NFL has so far failed to reach a labor agreement with its regular referees, and no further talks are scheduled.

The league's 32 teams received a memo Wednesday indicating that "in light of the current state of negotiations, ... we will have replacement crews on the field when the regular season begins," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

Nonetheless, talks continued - including a meeting Saturday morning in which the two sides "discussed various potential solutions to reach a new collective bargaining agreement," NFL Referees Association lead negotiator Mike Arnold said in a statement. But there was no breakthrough.

Negotiations between the league and the referees about pay and other matters have gone on and off for months. In the meantime, the NFL hired replacement referees who have been working games throughout the preseason. Some of the replacement referees' work so far has come under criticism, from their penalty calls (or lack thereof) to communication issues. The Cincinnati Bengals, on that NFL team's official Twitter feed, called out these refs earlier this week for "getting a little flag-happy."

Could the replacement refs put NFL players at risk? Sports Illustrated Video's Maggie Gray explains.

"The league has tried to give them the kind of education they need, but it's impossible to try to make up for the experience that normal referees would have," she says. "There have been some embarrassing gaffes for replacement officials in the preseason games, and those have gotten a lot of attention."

"In a way, the spotlight is very hot on these replacement referees and it's unfortunate because you want to have the best of the best on the field. Because of this labor dispute, it doesn't seem like that's happening," Gray says.

READ MORE: Union negotiator: NFL referees won't start season; no more talks planned


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