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.
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 email 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.