GREEN BAY - The anger over the replacement refs in the first few weeks of the NFL regular season has been clear and consistent – especially with the incident in Seattle.
But the situation with the replacement refs isn't something that just appeared.
The whole issue has been brewing since the summer.
"As you can see, we're preparing for the season and we will have officials on the field. The whole issue is how do we keep improving officiating?" said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at a Packers practice.
"Of course (the union is) interested in compensation and benefits – we understand that. We think we've been responsive on that and we think we can get something done."
Only problem is Goodell made those comments in early August.
It's now late September.
So how did we get here?
Back in June, the NFL (and 26 teams) and the NFL Referees Association – representing about 120 field officials, replay officials and about 100 retired refs – couldn't agree to a new contract, leading to a lockout.
In the regular referees' stead, the NFL has replaced the game officials with replacement referees – many of whom hail from the lower tiers of the NCAA, Arena League football and retired college officials.
It's the first time since 2001 the league has used replacement referees.
One of the major issues on the bargaining table is the NFL is looking to change the way the referees' pensions work – going from a defined benefit pension to a 401(k) matching pension.
But the union says that can hurt their rainy-day funds.
The league says since the refs are part-time employees – most have second jobs – the union's position is unattainable, despite the union's argument the NFL makes billions of dollars.
The second major issue is the adding full-time officials.
The NFL says it wants to improve officiating and full-time refs would do that, allowing the league to, ironically, replace refs.
But the union argues full-timers would cut in to how much each ref makes, threatening job security.
But a sports economics expert says events like Monday night's Packers – Seahawks game has played a role in negotiations.
"I think the N-F-L thought that they had the upper hand in any negotiation with the referees," said Kevin Quinn, a Saint Norbert College economics professor.
Quinn, who is also an expert in sports economics, believes the impasse has been more about breaking the power of the union than about the money involved.
Quinn 03:11:"The difference is a few million dollars a year - which is not peanuts. But if you compare that to the size of NFL revenues, which are $9 billion a year, it's a tiny fraction of a percentage."
Quinn 01:56:"the balance of the bargaining position - and strength of the bargaining position has changed with Monday night's game. No question about it."
The check union referees cash is no small change for a part-time job.
Quinn says an average ref makes about 150-thousand a year.
The NFL says the terms of the current deal could mean a veteran official, by 2018, could earn more than $200,000 a year, based on annual pay bumps.
With the two sides circling a new deal, that could change.
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