From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- The NFL will open the regular season next week with replacement officials and said it was prepared to use them "as much ... as necessary" afterward.Replacements will be on the field beginning Wednesday night when the Dallas Cowboys visit the New York Giants in the season opener, league executive Ray Anderson told the 32 teams in a memo. Negotiations are at a standstill between the NFL and the officials' union.The NFL Referees Association was locked out in early June and talks on a new collective bargaining agreement have gone nowhere. Replacements have been used throughout the preseason, with mixed results.In 2001, the NFL used replacements for the first week of the regular season before a contract was finalized. The speed of the game and the amount of time starters are on the field increase exponentially for real games, making the replacements' task more challenging.Anderson, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations, told the clubs in a memo Wednesday that the replacements will work "as much of the regular season as necessary," adding that training with each crew will continue.The NFL noted it has expanded the use of instant replay as an officiating tool this year to include all scoring plays and turnovers. Officiating supervisors will be on hand to assist the crews on game administration issues."We are not surprised, based on Ray Anderson's statements ... that the NFL was not going to reach out to us," NFLRA spokesman Michael Arnold said. "However, this is consistent with the NFL's negotiating strategy which has been take it or leave it and lock them out.' It now appears the NFL is willing to forego any attempt to reach a deal in the last seven days before opening night."The NFL Players Association, which went through a 4 - month lockout last year before settling on a new contract, expressed disappointment about the decision to use replacements.Colts safety Antoine Bethea said there is a feeling of solidarity with the officials."They've got to do what they've got to do, and we were in a similar situation a little while ago," Bethea said. "So you can't fault those guys for doing what they have to do."Anderson said the sides remain considerably apart on economic issues, including salary and retirement benefits. He also told the teams there is a substantial difference on operational issues."One of our key goals in this negotiation is to enhance our ability to recruit, train, and replace officials who are not performing adequately," Anderson said. "We believe that officials should be evaluated and performance issues addressed in the same way as players, coaches, club management and league staff. We have proposed several steps to accomplish this, including having a number of full-time officials and expanding the overall number of officials."Giants receiver Victor Cruz said the players have other things as their prime concern as the season approaches."You can't worry about that. You have to go out there and worry about what we do as individuals and players. Take care of our own deal," Cruz said Wednesday might after New York's 6-3 victory over New England. "They've gotten better as the games went on, but we just have to make sure we're doing the right things out there on the field and not give them much to throw flags on."The NFL is offering to add three full officiating crews, increasing the total number of officials to 140. The NFLRA insists the compensation being offered with such an increase would reduce the officials' pay.The league is proposing having seven officials -- one per position of referee, umpire, line judge, side judge, back judge, field judge, head linesman -- who would train, scout, handle communications, safety issues and rules interpretations year-round. Now, all NFL game officials are part-time employees, with outside jobs ranging from lawyers to teachers to business owners.In response, the NFLRA has said it is not opposed to full-time officials "if they are fairly compensated."The union also disputes the value of the league's current salary offer, which it says would not be the 5 percent to 11 percent increase the NFL claims.And the union questions the league's adherence to player safety initiatives by using replacement officials, none of whom has recently worked Division I college games. Many of the officials who were replacements in 2001 came from the Division I level."The league has placed a lot of emphasis on player health and safety in the last few years and we do feel we are an integral part of that," Arnold said. "We think it is unfortunate and we really don't understand why the league is willing to risk playing safety and the integrity of the game by utilizing amateur officials."Anderson told the teams that the replacements have "undergone extensive training and evaluation, and have shown steady improvement during the preseason."Arnold disagreed."The referees want to get back on the field," Arnold said. "Our members have been engaged in extensive preparations and are ready to go."Giants coach Tom Coughlin said the coaches and players have no control over the situation."For me to say there is or isn't concern, you do the very best you can with them," Coughlin said Wednesday night. "You just hope these officials know the rules and can keep the game under control and keep order. Hopefully they'll be able to do that."
0:41 - Tom Giles, Kayce Smith, and DJ Bean discuss the Celtics 16-game winning streak being snapped by the Miami Heat.
6:05 - Tom Curran and Mike Giardi talk about Tom Brady missing practice due to an Achilles injury and Randy Moss’ chances to make the Hall of Fame.
11:15 - A. Sherrod Blakely joins BST to discuss the mental and physical fatigue that the streak had on the Celtics and if there is a sense of relief that the streak is over.
16:11 - With it being the 5th anniversary of the Butt Fumble, we compare it to other embarrassing sports moments in history.
When you reflect upon Boston’s 16-game winning streak which came to an end with Miami’s 104-98 win on Wednesday, there were moments in just about every game that played a major factor in their success.
So it was only fitting that in the Miami loss, it would be a whole lot of little things that ultimately brought the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history to a screeching halt.
- Al Horford missed a pair of free throws.
- Marcus Smart split a pair that had he made both, would have tied the game up in the fourth quarter.
- Jayson Tatum had his only turnover of the game, in the fourth.
- Terry Rozier had a rebound that he could not corral and bounced off his hands out of bounds.
And that doesn’t even factor in the missed open shots and unforced turnovers that collectively played a major role in Boston’s winning streak being a thing of the past now.
“I turned it over, we missed some free throws . . . we had some unfortunate things happen,” Tatum told reporters following the loss.
- Heinsohn: Celtics looked 'mentally tired' vs. the Heat
- Stevens: 16-game win streak was a 'little bit of a mirage'
Even with the loss, the Celtics (16-3) still boast the best record in the NBA.
Kyrie Irving has elevated his all-around play to a level to where he’s legitimately in the conversation as a league MVP candidate.
Jayson Tatum has established himself as one of the league’s top rookies from his draft class.
“As you could see, they kept hitting us, hitting us, until we were knocked out,” Irving said. “They deserved that win tonight.”
Disappointed with the loss, but it was not at all surprising to head coach Brad Stevens who has been raising concerns about his team’s attention to detail for the past few games and sensed it would catch up to them sooner or later.
“I told you, we’re not as good as the 16-game win streak,” Stevens said. “But we do have a lot of resolve. I can’t say enough about our guy’s will to come back. It’s incredible we were able to erase that lead that quickly and give ourselves a chance.”
Indeed, the Celtics rallied from a double-digit deficit to come within a single point in the fourth quarter. But unlike previous games, Boston couldn’t find a path to victory.
“We’re just going to continue to learn and continue to get better,” Irving said. “It’s the same things echoed when we were winning. Just continue to get better and understand, there’s still a lot for us to accomplish going forward.
He added, “It was a good streak, and it’s finally come to an end.”