- Associated Press - Thursday, August 16, 2012

NEW YORK — Less than three weeks before the season kicks off, the NFL and the NFL Referees Association are no closer to an agreement to end the lockout of the officials.

As replacement officials work preseason games — and generally get criticized for their performances — the league and officials Thursday disputed such issues as full-time employees and adding officiating crews.

On Sept. 5, the Cowboys visit the Giants to open the season. Not since 2001 has the NFL played games that count in the standings with replacement officials, and that was for one week. This lockout began June 3.

The NFL is offering to add three full officiating crews, increasing the total number of officials to 140. League spokesman Greg Aiello said “this would reduce stress on the officials by allowing each official to work fewer games, would reduce travel, would allow us to do more intensive training, integrate younger officials more effectively, increase diversity and improve quality of officiating.”

“The union flatly opposes this proposal …” Aiello added.

New deal for Texans’ Brown

HOUSTON — The Houston Texans signed left tackle Duane Brown to a new contract Thursday, locking up a durable anchor to help protect Matt Schaub and open holes for Arian Foster.

Brown’s contract was due to expire after this season.

The former Virginia Tech standout has started all but four games since the Texans drafted him with the 26th overall pick in 2008, earning All-Pro second team honors in 2011.

Brown was suspended four games in 2010 for a positive test for a supplement on the league’s list of banned substances.

He acknowledged then that he made a “naive” mistake and was scared straight by “the longest four weeks of my life.”

Evidence filed in Vilma case

NEW ORLEANS — The NFL provided a federal judge with what it says is evidence Commissioner Roger Goodell did not improperly pre-judge players in the bounty investigation.

The evidence includes a copy of a letter the NFL Players Association sent the league March 7 asking Goodell to delay punishment of players implicated in the bounty probe.

It also includes a sworn declaration from Goodell in which he states he was prepared to hand down player discipline at the same time he announced suspensions for coaches and executives March 21.

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