Notes: NFL and officials’ union no closer to agreement

Less than three weeks before the season kicks off, the NFL and the NFL Referees Association are no closer to an agreement to end the lockout of the officials.

As replacement officials work preseason games — and generally get criticized — the league and officials Thursday disputed such issues as full-time employees and adding officiating crews.

The NFL is offering to add three full officiating crews, increasing the total number of officials to 140. League spokesman Greg Aiello said ‘‘this would reduce stress on the officials by allowing each official to work fewer games, would reduce travel, would allow us to do more intensive training, integrate younger officials more effectively, increase diversity, and improve quality of officiating.’’

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But the NFLRA insists the compensation being offered with such an increase would reduce their pay.

Another key issue, one Aiello noted will improve the quality of officiating long term, is hiring full-time officials.

‘‘The NFLRA is not opposed to full-time officials if they are fairly compensated,’’ the union said Thursday.

The union also disputes the value of the league’s current salary offer, which it says would not be a 5 percent to 11 percent increase.

Instead, the officials said the proposal ‘‘includes aggregate game fee compensation increases of 2.82 percent per year, not the rates publicly claimed by the league.”

Finally, there is a stalemate over the officials’ pension plan, which the union said the league plans to freeze and ultimately terminate.

Evidence submitted

The league on Thursday provided a federal judge with what it says is evidence commissioner Roger Goodell did not improperly pre-judge players suspended in the bounty investigation.

The evidence includes a copy of a letter the Players Association sent the league March 7 asking Goodell to delay punishment of players implicated in the bounty probe.

It also includes a sworn declaration from Goodell in which he states he was prepared to hand down player discipline at the same time he announced suspensions for coaches and executives on March 21.

Attorneys for Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who has sued separately, and NFLPA lawyers representing the three other punished players have argued Goodell showed improper bias with comments he made before suspending the players May 2.

Urlacher optimistic

Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher spoke publicly for the first time since before the decision was made to have arthroscopic debridement procedure on his left knee Tuesday morning. He first injured the knee Jan. 1 in the regular-season finale and tried to rehab it without surgery. The 34-year-old, eight-time Pro Bowl player said he never had any type of knee surgery until Tuesday., citing sources, reported Thursday that it was actually his third procedure on his knee since the end of last season. The Bears declined comment. ‘‘It is frustrating because after seven months you'd think you would be healthy again, but I should be good to go now, hopefully,’’ Urlacher said . . . The NFL suspended Chargers defensive tackle Garrett Brown without pay for the team’s first four regular-season games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Brown, who signed as a free agent, will be eligible to return Oct. 1 . . . The Texans signed left tackle Duane Brown to a six-year contract worth $53.4 million, with $22.08 million guaranteed. The 6-foot-4-inch, 320-pound Brown has started all but four games since the Texans drafted him with the 26th overall pick in 2008 . . . Linebacker D.J. Williams was excused from Broncos practice for personal reasons, a day after being convicted of driving while ability-impaired and driving without his headlights. Already facing a six-game drug suspension to start the season, Williams is subject to further punishment from the NFL because of his conviction on the impaired driving charge. The league said it will review the matter . . . Giants defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, a 12-year veteran, will miss the season because of a blood clot in his left calf . . . Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham injured his right knee late in the first quarter of a preseason game against the Falcons Thursday night.