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Originally published Friday, September 21, 2012 at 9:16 PM

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NFL far from reaching deal with referees association

Reports indicated that the two sides made little ground in meetings over the past two days, meaning the replacement officials who have been the subject of much criticism will continue to referee league games.

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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 that it was "not appropriate" to comment on specific issues.

The NFL locked out the regular officials in June after their contract expired 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 first replacement referees the league has used since 2001.

The collection of small-college officials working the games has drawn tough criticism from those on the field.

"There's no doubt the integrity of the game has been compromised not having the regular officials out there," Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka has said. "We've got to get that taken care of."

In response, the league, according to NFL.com, said Thursday night that senior NFL officials called owners, general managers and coaches from all 32 teams to tell them that respect for the game demands better conduct.

NFL executive vice president Ray Anderson said flags, fines and suspensions are possible for coaches or players who cross the line.

Notes

• New York Jets linebacker Bart Scott and a reporter needed to be separated by a media-relations staffer after the two got into an argument when the reporter tried to take a picture of Scott.

Scott exchanged heated comments with Dan Leberfeld of Jets Confidential magazine after Leberfeld was preparing to take a picture of the linebacker, who was speaking to another reporter off the record, before the Jets staffer intervened.

• Running back Matt Forte will sit out the Chicago Bears' game against the St. Louis Rams Sunday because of a sprained right ankle he suffered against Green Bay last week.

• Washington Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon was limited in practice Friday and is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Kenny Phillips was one of four New York Giants disciplined for their conduct in last Sunday's win over Tampa Bay. Phillips was fined $30,000, and Andre Brown, David Baas and Kevin Boothe also received fines.

• Former NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson pleaded no contest to a domestic violence charge involving his then-wife, reality TV star Evelyn Lozada. Johnson was sentenced to a year's probation and a counseling course under a plea deal. Johnson also must pay Lozada unspecified restitution.

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