SBD/September 6, 2012/NFL Season Preview

Replacement Refs Draw Favorable Reviews In Season Opener; No Talks On Horizon

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Replacement referees receive praise for work in Cowboys-Giants game
There have been no discussions between the NFL and NFLRA in their ongoing labor stalemate “for the last four days" and "none are scheduled,” according to NBC’s Peter King. NFLRA President Scott Green said he has "never seen our guys more solid and stronger." Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio noted the NFL “will be using postseason procedures” while replacement referees are utilized, including the use of an “eighth official on the field in direct and constant communication with a league supervisor upstairs who will be looking for any mistakes.” Florio: “They will take whatever time it needs to get it right, even if it makes the games go longer” (“FNIA,” NBC, 9/5).

GOOD JOB, GOOD EFFORT: FOXSPORTS.com's Mike Pereira, the former NFL VP/Officiating, writes the referees in last night's Cowboys-Giants game "actually did a pretty good job." They "performed well, given the intensity and the pressure of the opening game on national television." Pereira: "There were a few misses here and there, but that's normal. And there was nothing critical that really had an impact on the outcome of the game" (FOXSPORTS.com, 9/6). The AP's Tom Canavan wrote, "For the most part, nothing seemed different." Head official Jim Core's seven-man crew "seemingly didn't make any blunders, although there were a couple of calls that both teams questioned." NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Ray Anderson said, "No problems, just as we've been saying all along." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during an hour-long forum with fans from all 32 teams yesterday said, "I would love to have the best officials on the field, but I have to look at this long-term" (AP, 9/5). PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Michael David Smith wrote Core "turned out to be the right choice: He ran the game efficiently and effectively, and communicated the calls well." There were "no lengthy delays as the officials huddled to discuss a call, no long replay reviews, no moments where you threw up your hands and questioned whether the officials knew what they were doing" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 9/5). On Long Island, Greg Logan writes under the header, "NFL Replacement Officials Do OK In Season Opener." Logan: "There were no obvious problems or miscues by the crew" (NEWSDAY, 9/6). The DALLAS MORNING NEWS writes the replacement officials "barely were a story" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/6). In N.Y., Steve Serby: "Fans exiting MetLife Stadium were more ticked off about the Replacement Giants than the replacement refs" (N.Y. POST, 9/6).

ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Also in N.Y., Mark Cannizzaro writes for the Giants there was "much to nitpick when it came to the controversial replacement referees." However, the Giants "did not bellyache about blown calls, although there were plenty of hints about calls that could or should have been made." Coach Tom Coughlin said, "They're trying to do the very best they can" (N.Y. POST, 9/6). The N.Y. POST's Mike Vaccaro writes the replacement refs "didn't help" the Giants. There were "a few spotty spots of the ball" and "at least a half-dozen missed holding calls" (N.Y. POST, 9/6). NBC’s Rodney Harrison at halftime of Cowboys-Giants said the officials “did a solid job in the first half, but they did miss one play and it was a pretty obvious play.” Harrison said there should have been a pass interference call on the Cowboys near the goal line, but no flag was thrown. However, NBC’s Tony Dungy said in that “particular formation that is an easy call to miss." Dungy: "There’s five receivers, there just aren’t enough eyes. Even the regular officials may have had a tough time making that one” ("Cowboys-Giants," NBC, 9/5). 

HURTING INTEGRITY OF GAMES: SPORTING NEWS' David Steele wrote by keeping the regular refs locked out, the NFL is "toying with the integrity of the sport, the quality of the product and the safety and well-being of the players" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 9/5). L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell “to spend all this off-season talking about the safety of players and to jeopardize the players like this is shameful” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 9/5). In Ft. Lauderdale, Mike Berardino writes it "isn't just the integrity of the game that's endangered by using fill-ins," but the "very safety of the NFL's most precious resource: its athletes." Dolphins C Mike Pouncey said, "It's going to be a big difference. This ain't the preseason. Guys are out there now playing for their families, playing for their organization and playing four quarters." Pouncey "smiled and shook his head at the thought of four glorified scrimmages somehow preparing these fill-ins from the lingerie league and such for what lies ahead." He said, "It's not the jamboree anymore. It's the real deal. Every game counts now, so obviously you want every right call made" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 9/6). Eagles WR Jason Avant said, "This league, our commissioner, is all about player safety. And, with the deal not being done, there’s a definite compromise, kind of an oxymoron, so to speak, with the refs not being there. A lot of guys are kind of concerned about it. That’s a big deal for us, as far as player safety." He added, "When you go into a game, you know what things you can do to get away with these refs that we have. Guys are going to kind of cheat this week” (CSNPHILLY.com, 9/5).

LATE-NIGHT LAUGHS: The NFL's referee situation was played for laughs on a couple late-night talk shows last night. ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel said, “The NFL referees are on strike right now, so tonight they used replacement refs. I’m sure these guys are trying to do their best, but some of them were calling high school games last year and they just don’t seem to have the same level of professionalism the regular referees have.” The broadcast aired footage of last night’s Cowboys-Giants game and before the snap a penalty flag was thrown. A Kimmel staffer posing as a referee appeared on-screen to announce the penalty and said, “Okay, so uhh, we got the big guy, uhh, hitting the smaller guy real hard. He’s like, uhh, a fullback or a halfback or…doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter. It’ll be good, it’ll be good. We’re going to push them back like, uhh, 10, 20 of these white lines, baby steps, and uhh, yeah, do-over. Total do-over. Do-over call!” Kimmel: “You see what I’m saying by professional? A top notch referee wouldn’t do that” (“Jimmy Kimmel Live,” ABC, 9/5). Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert said, “This football season I am pumped for one big rivalry: The festering labor dispute between the owners and the referees. The NFL has enforced a lockout of the refs since July with the parties still divided on a variety of issues, including salaries, retirement benefits, work guarantees and vision coverage, because COME ON REF, ARE YOU BLIND!? Now obviously, you can’t have NFL football without the refs. But the owners just called an audible.” Colbert noted that one replacement official previously worked in the Lingerie Football League, which “explains why Eli Manning recently got a 15-yard penalty for sporting a whale tail" (“The Colbert Report,” Comedy Central, 9/5).
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