There are only three zeros in that number. NFL owners can’t actually see or read any number that has less than four zeros. They once knew how to count that low, but they haven’t needed to use numbers that small in years.

As we prepare to begin another week of preseason play tonight with replacement officials who once worked the mean high school and lingerie football fields, talks are still in the not talking phase between the NFL and its regular officials. It’s not an ideal situation for a league that preaches player safety, only a year after player safety was a major talking point during labor negotiations that threatened the 2011 season.

Speaking of which, if you take only a cursory glance at the coverage of the ongoing lockout of the regular NFL zebras, it looks quite familiar. There are accusations of accusing, and claims that statements of fact are entirely false, and then the standard bickering and belittling. Good times.

But once we get past that forest, there’s some interesting math in the latest statement made by the Referee’s Association.

Money is the root of the problem between the NFL and NFLRA, just as it’s often the cause of every problem you’ve ever had. Specifically, the league is looking to hire 21 more officials (three crews), but they want to do it without increasing the aggregate pay for officials. That means the newbies will actually make less than the status quo, which isn’t acceptable.

As far as an acceptable raise is concerned, there’s a reported gap of $100,000 per team between what the refs want and what the league is willing to give. That sounds miniscule for a league that made $9.3 billion in revenues last year, and it is.

But it gets worse. After the financial gap is broken down on a per game basis, the NFLRA is claiming that the compensation they’re asking for is the equivalent of about two poorly cooked vendor hot dogs for each team. That’s what they said in a statement today: (via the National Football Post)

“The difference in aggregate compensation requested by the NFLRA and offered by the NFL are insignificant compared to NFL revenues. In the 2012 season the difference is about $2.2 million and over the five-year term proposed by the NFLRA about $16.5 million in total. That breaks down to $500,000 per team over five years or $100,000 per team per year.

This means the compensation issue could be resolved for $6,000 per game for each team. Why would the NFL jeopardize the health and safety of it players and the integrity of the game for such a modest amount?”

There’s rhetoric and propaganda here, just as there is with every statement during labor negotiations as the two sides compete to sway the opinion of those who preside over the court of public opinion. But look past that, and the concluding question is still a fair one, and one that still hasn’t been answered.

The NFL is a league that prints money, and routinely has all of its teams in Forbes’ annual list of the richest franchises in sports. Yet in an era when there’s rapidly-increasing concern over the health of players both during their careers — and perhaps more importantly — long after they’ve walked away from football, Roger Goodell and his gaggle of grey-haired money hounds are quibbling over $6,000 weekly, according to the NFLRA.

Priorities, you guys.