Negotiations between the NFL and its locked-out referees stalled again Saturday.
The NFL Referees Association said it does not expect its members to be on the field when the season opens Wednesday.
The league used replacement officials during the preseason and has indicated it intends to continue to use them into the regular season if necessary.
Talks resumed late last week and, according to a written statement by the referees association, the two sides met Saturday.
“Unfortunately we were unable to reach any agreement,” Michael Arnold, the referees’ negotiator, said in the written statement.
“We are disappointed because it means that our members will not be back on the field for Week 1 of the regular season due to the NFL’s continuing lockout.”
The referees remain willing to negotiate but no further meetings are scheduled, the statement said.
The season begins Wednesday night with the New York Giants hosting the Dallas Cowboys. The Washington Redskins play next Sunday at New Orleans.
The two sides have differences over both economic and non-economic bargaining issues.
The league informed teams in a memo Wednesday that it intended to begin the regular season with the replacement officials on the field. But the recent resumption of talks sparked hopes of a last-minute deal to have the regular officials back for the season opener. Now it’s unclear if that remains possible.
The league used replacement officials for one week of regular season games in 2001.
The NFL issued a written statement that said: “Commissioner [Roger] Goodell and other NFL staff members concluded three days of talks today with representatives of the NFLRA without reaching an agreement. No further talks are scheduled. We are proceeding with the replacement officials.”
A person familiar with the negotiations said that Goodell initiated private discussions with the locked-out referees and told them the league was willing to make certain improvements to the economic aspects of its offer to strike a deal before the regular season. In the league’s view, the referees association understood and initially expressed a willingness to bargain within those parameters but then backed away from that at Saturday’s meeting, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the negotiations are at a sensitive stage.