The Associated Press
NEW YORK - After a playoff season marked by officiating mistakes, the NFL has told eight officials to quit or they will be fired, a football source said.
The dismissals are part of the annual performance review that for the past decade has led to a turnover rate of eight to 10 officials a year, the source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
The officials have until March 20 to decide, the source said.
"Every year there is some turnover among the game officials involving either retirements, personal reasons or performance," league spokesman Greg Aiello said Wednesday.
The story first was reported Wednesday by The New York Times.
Mike Arnold, a lawyer representing the NFL Referees Association, told the newspaper it was the largest number of referees ever asked to resign at one time.
He also said the league did not give a reason for its decision to the officials or the union, except that the decision was connected to the officials' performances.
This past season's playoffs featured a number of games with disputed officiating calls. The most notable was a wild-card game between the New York Giants and San Francisco in which commissioner Paul Tagliabue criticized the officiating.
Officials routinely are told when their jobs are in danger, Aiello said. He noted that 16 officials who worked in 2001 did not return last season, some by choice and some because they were dismissed for poor performance.
"When it involves performance, the union is informed in advance and both the union and any individual official are told it is performance related," Aiello said.
Neither Aiello nor Arnold would disclose the names of the officials, but the Times said other game officials, who spoke to the newspaper on condition of anonymity, identified them as James Duke, Dave Warden, Tom Johnson, Dave Anderson, Lloyd McPeters, Bill Spyksma, Ron Spitler and Tommy Moore.
According to the NFL's record and fact book, they range in experience from 21 years (Johnson and Spitler) to five years (Warden).
None of those identified worked the playoffs last season.
LIONS: Joey Harrington says his heart is so healthy that he doesn't even think about it being the reason his rookie season ended abruptly.
Harrington was taken to a hospital Dec. 15 when his heartbeat raced at 270 to 280 beats per minute during a game with Tampa Bay. Two days later, the 24-year-old quarterback underwent a procedure to destroy parts of the tissue and electrical pathway that caused the irregular heartbeat.
"I'm completely fine," Harrington said Wednesday. "There's no medication. There's nothing. It's something that is in the past. To be honest, I haven't thought about it since I started working out about a week after that surgery."
JETS: Guard Tom Nutten, a six-year veteran, signed with New York after spending the last four seasons with St. Louis.
RAIDERS: Defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield, released by San Francisco last month in a salary-cap move, signed with Oakland. Terms of the 10-year veteran's contract were not disclosed.
The 49ers cut Stubblefield after general manager Terry Donahue said he gained too much weight and struggled as the season wore on. He would have been due $2.3 million next season with San Francisco.
BEARS: Chicago prevented placekicker Paul Edinger from going to Minnesota by matching his $7 million, five-year offer sheet from the Vikings.
Edinger is the most accurate field goal kicker in Bears history, making 80.2 percent of his 86 attempts in three seasons. He made 35 field goals of 40 yards or better, most in the NFL in the past three seasons.
PATRIOTS: New England signed Pro Bowl safety Rodney Harrison to an undisclosed contract.
Harrison was hampered by a groin injury last season with San Diego, which released him in a salary cap move. He started 13 games, totaling two interceptions, two sacks and 88 tackles.
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C-USA Tournament Glance
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West again A-10 player of year
Dayton finally gets to play
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