Not under contract, but no lockout imposed … yet
In a typical contract year, the collective bargaining agreement negotiations for the NFL replay officials usually progress rather quickly. That is because the NFL and the NFL Referees Association negotiate the on-field officials’ contract in the previous year, and all of the difficult points have already been hashed out by then.
But this is not a typical contract year. And the replay officials do not have a contract covering the upcoming season.
We reached out to the NFLRA executive director Jim Quirk Sr., but he declined comment. Quirk, a former NFL umpire, was appointed as executive director in April, and was not a part of the the union during last year’s negotiations.
The league would say nothing specific about the contract talks. NFL spokesman Mike Signora told us, “Negotiations continue, and we look forward to reaching an agreement in the near future.”
In a week, the NFL officials meet in Dallas for the annual officiating clinic. It’s essentially their training camp. The weekend event gives the officials the opportunity to review the new rules and to hash out the various interpretations — former officiating supervisor Jim Daopoulos refers to this process as “jotting down margin notes” that are as much a part of the rule book as the actual rules. Officials also will be tested in rules knowledge and physical fitness. (To learn about a good portion of those margin notes, listen to our interview with Dean Blandino, the NFL vice president of officiating.)
Even though they are not under contract, “the [replay] officials will attend the clinic,” Signora said.
Last year, when the on-field officials did not have a CBA, they didn’t attend the clinic because the league locked them out. The league contended that they had to do that because someone mentioned the S-word — strike. The officials did strike right before the opening weekend in 2001, and the league did not want a repeat of that in 2012.
Both parties seem to be content with the status quo while the negotiations continue. Presumably, lead counsel Jeff Pasch and executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson are representing the league at the negotiating table, as they did last year. We confirmed replay official Larry Nemmers (a former on-field referee) is the lead negotiator for the replay officials, and we believe that NFLRA attorney Mike Arnold is also involved.
One replay official, who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak on the matter, says that he has heard nothing of the negotiations all offseason, despite having asked periodically for an update. He expects the replay officials will be updated in Dallas this weekend.
This can get very complicated if the contract negotiations go any longer.