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League Rejects Officials’ Offer

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Associated Press

The NFL’s locked-out officials made a last-minute offer to work this season with a no-strike guarantee if their salary dispute was submitted to binding arbitration after the Super Bowl.

The NFL rejected the offer, submitted Thursday, just before it said that replacement officials would work this weekend’s opening games.

“We proposed a no-strike, no-lockout agreement before the lockout and they rejected it,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. “We’re now in a lockout. The ship has sailed.”

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Under the plan submitted by the NFL Referees Assn., the regular officials would have worked this season under their old contract. If no agreement was reached before the end of the season, the dispute would go to a federal mediator.

“It’s unbelievable,” Tom Condon, the officials’ negotiator, said in a statement. “But I guess I wouldn’t want an impartial third party if I were the NFL, either.”

Aiello said that he knows of no case in sports where arbitration was used before a contract was agreed upon.

“Arbitration is for settling disputes after there is a collective bargaining agreement,” he said.

The union also released a list of what it said were the names of replacement officials with their backgrounds.

The NFL had no comment on the list and there was no way to verify the backgrounds stated by the union. Some of the union descriptions indicated it, too, was unclear of the backgrounds.

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Andre Reed, Buffalo’s leading career receiver and a key member of the Bill teams that went to four consecutive Super Bowls in the 1990s, has called a news conference for today where he is expected to announce his retirement.

Reed spent 15 seasons with the Bills, setting four franchise records including most receiving touchdowns (86).

Reed is third on the NFL’s career list with 951 catches, behind Oakland’s Jerry Rice and Minnesota’s Cris Carter.

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Steve Christie didn’t kick in practice for the third consecutive day, but the Bills will wait until today to decide whether he will play in the opener. Christie strained his right groin muscle Wednesday.

Cleveland Brown defensive back Corey Fuller will not face a bribery charge at his Monday appearance in Cleveland Municipal Court on a traffic violation. A police intelligence unit concluded there was insufficient evidence to support an officer’s contention that Fuller had offered him $5,000 to avoid an arrest.

The NFL fined Dallas Cowboy tackle Flozell Adams for performing a chop block against defensive end Tony Brackens of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Adams was fined one game’s pay, or one-seventeenth of his estimated $500,000 salary.

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