DALLAS (AP) -- The NFL is one step closer to using replacement referees.
Contract talks between the league and its officials broke off without an agreement early Tuesday. Unless a deal is made in the next few days, the officials will not work the final preseason games this week.
"The league has informed us that if we don't have a resolution by this week, they're going to go ahead with replacement officials," said Tom Condon, lead negotiator for the officials.
"We're without a contract, and we don't think it's appropriate for us to continue on until we achieve some resolution."
The talks, which lasted four hours, were to resume Tuesday.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league was moving toward replacements for the final week of the exhibition season. The NFL received a rejection early Tuesday to a proposal that would have meant there would be no strike or lockout this season.
"No new offers were exchanged and no progress was made," Aiello said. "We raised the idea of no strike, no lockout for the season and it was rejected by the union."
Still, Condon is hoping for a settlement.
"I'll stay here for the rest of the week if that's what it takes," he said.
But he wants the NFL to give more.
"We've been talking about this with the league for over 18 months, and we don't think that talking about it for another 6-to-8 months is going to change anyone's mind."
Since Paul Tagliabue took over as commissioner in 1989, there have been no strikes or lockouts of either officials or players. The labor contract with players extends through 2007.
But the NFL has been adamant that it will not start the regular season without a deal with officials to replace the one that expired last March.
Replacement officials already are signed and could begin working exhibition games as early as Thursday.
On the table is the NFL's latest offer, a 40 percent increase immediately and a doubled salary by 2003.
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