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NFL referees and league far apart in negotiations, source says

Representatives of the NFL and their game officials have met in recent days. But they are no closer to an agreement, according to a source with knowledge of the negotiations.

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Replacement officials discuss a call as the San Diego Chargers play the Tennessee Titans during the second quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012, in San Diego. Regular NFL officials and the league remain far apart in new contract negotiations.

Denis Poroy/AP

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The NFL and its locked-out officials met the last two days, but a person familiar with the negotiations said Friday the sides remain far apart and no further talks are scheduled.

The person said in an email to The Associated Press that there are "significant and serious economic gaps." The person requested anonymity in characterizing the negotiations because they are intended to remain private.

Michael Arnold, counsel and lead negotiator for NFL Referees Association, acknowledged the discussions, saying his group reached out to the league last week and the NFL agreed to meet. He said there may be additional talks, but it is "not appropriate" to comment on specific issues.

The NFL locked out the regular officials in June and has been using replacements as the season enters its third full weekend. Many players, coaches and fans have been upset with what they say is poor officiating. The NFL has warned teams that it won't tolerate confrontational behavior toward the new officials.

The NFL locked out the regular officials after their contract expired. Negotiations with the NFLRA broke down several times during the summer, including just before the season. This is the first time the league is using replacements since 2001.

The collection of small college officials working the games has drawn tough criticism from those on the field. Monday night's game between Atlanta and Denver underlined the matter, with Broncos coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio engaging in heated arguments with officials.

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