While the dispute between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association continues, nine of the "most respected" former NFL officials who later became officiating trainers "have been instructed by the league to turn in their computers and no longer have access to the NFL's computer system," according to Sam Farmer of the L.A. TIMES. The officials' transgression "was refusing to train" replacement officials, "who Friday were in Dallas for their first clinic." Official-turned-trainer Jerry Markbreit said, "We feel that we're fired. They haven't formally notified us, but it sure feels like we're fired." The other eight former officials "asked to return their computers were Red Cashion, Ron Botchan, Bill Schmitz, Ben Montgomery, Jim Quirk, Sid Semon, Tom Fincken and Dean Look." Those men, "who are not currently members of the union, have 265 years of combined service with the league and have worked 22 Super Bowls." Markbreit said, "They wanted us to train the replacements which we would absolutely not do. We were all officials for 20-plus years. ... How could we face our people? There wasn't a question about us doing this. We knew this was coming. It's very discouraging for (the league) to have put us in this kind of situation." The NFL in response said that the trainers "were not fired but are seasonal employees." The NFL said the trainers "have decided not to work at this time." The NFL: "We asked for their NFL-issued laptops back so that those who are working right now can use them." The league "did not give an explanation for why the trainers could no longer access the computer system" (L.A. TIMES, 7/21).
ISSUES ABOUND: In Jacksonville, Vito Stellino wrote under the header, "Despite TV Success, NFL Facing Issues." Teams are "having problems attracting fans to their stadiums." There is the "increasing number of concussion lawsuits." Two more issues are the "labor dispute with officials, and the players' collusion lawsuit contending the owners illegally conspired during the uncapped year in 2010 to keep spending down" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 7/22). The AP's Barry Wilner wrote the NFL "made headlines without even trying during an off-season when there was almost never a day off -- certainly not for the league's lawyers." It has been "nonstop drama off the field" (AP, 7/21).