Representatives for the National Football League and its referees' association met Wednesday as the league was handing out stiff fines to two of its coaches for abusing replacement officials.
The league's regular officials have been locked out since June when their previous contract expired. For the first three weeks of the season, the NFL has used replacement officials from different collegiate and semipro leagues, much to the derision of many fans, players and coaches.
The league fined New England head coach Bill Belichick $50,000 for impermissible physical contact with an official. The Patriots' coach, upset with a call near the end of a game, chased an official and grabbed him briefly in an attempt to get the referee's attention. Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was fined $25,000 for yelling at an official.
"It was inappropriate for me to contact the official," Belichick said in a written statement. "I take responsibility for what happened. I accept the discipline, and I apologize for the incident Sunday night in Baltimore."
ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported the league and officials were close to a deal, but Sports Illustrated senior writer Peter King wrote that a deal was not imminent, according to a referee who received an e-mail from one of the negotiators.
The source told King that there was progress.
There are four main points the two sides are discussing: pay, retirement plans, more officials and full-time status for some officials.
The league's next game is Thursday night between Cleveland and Baltimore. There are 13 games scheduled for Sunday and one on Monday. One of those Sunday contests is at Green Bay, whose Packers were losers last weekend on a game-deciding call only the NFL thinks was correct.
Capt. Bill Galvin of the Green Bay Police Department said his office had consulted with the team and the NFL's security office.
"We expect to see a lot of people venting at the game," Galvin said. "Fans with signs and making catcalls directed at the officials, but we do not believe there will be any action taken beyond that."
He said there will be no additional police presence at the game, but they have a contingency plan should officers be needed beyond their normal game-day duties.