Sources: NFL Regular Season Expected To Begin With Replacement Officials
NFL execs yesterday said that they "now foresee starting the 2012 regular season with replacement officials," according to Mortensen & Schefter of ESPN.com. Sources said that the NFL and NFL Referees Association "are not making any progress towards a new deal." The league "wants to make a group of officials, who work only part time for the NFL, work full time." But more than 90% of the referees "already have full-time jobs and they are unwilling to leave them and the revenue they provide." The NFL also "wants to add three additional crews to give officials more rest and the league more officiating options, but the locked-out officials oppose this." The league "believes if it could bring in more officials now, it could groom more for the future." Additionally, the NFL has "discussed the option of rotating some of the proposed new officials into established crews if the league determines there is a substandard performance by an official that merits a change." A source estimated that the two sides "would not resolve their differences until the third week of the regular season" (ESPN.com, 8/13). ESPN.com's John Clayton wrote NFL replacement officials have “been terrible,” and if the league “doesn’t get a deal to bring the real officials back by the third preseason week, the league could ruin what might be a great season” (ESPN.com, 8/10). Locked-out NFL head linesman Mark Baltz said, "I don't see that the players and owners will put up with this much longer. The integrity of the league, I think, is at stake" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 8/14).
THE BLAME GAME: ESPN.com's Dan Graziano writes the blame lies "with the NFL owners." The NFL "hasn't locked out its officials because it has to." It has "locked them out because it can, at no cost to itself." The referees "should stand their ground in negotiations." Graziano: "If anything, the work of the replacements -- and the public's reaction to it -- helps their case against the league" (ESPN.com, 8/13). CSNBAYAREA.com's Ray Ratto wrote the dispute is "about money," and in order to "save that money, the owners are willing to put a dent in a new season -- one more tribute to their actual respect for the product." NFL owners "know you'll watch anyway, and they already have most of the TV and ticket money, so they're basically dismissing the sport to fuel their need to remind the labor force just how replaceable it is" (CSNBAYAREA.com, 8/13).
PERFORMANCE REVIEWS: SI.com’s Peter King wrote there were “not a lot of debacle plays over the weekend, but if you think the regular season will go smoothly with the replacement officials, you’re mistaken” (SI.com, 8/13). In Charlotte, Jones & Person noted during Saturday’s Texans-Panthers game “no real controversial calls were made, but head referee Gerald Wright did forget to turn off his microphone in the second quarter.” His comments “were work-related, though” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 8/11). In K.C., Randy Covitz wrote during Friday’s Cardinals-Chiefs game the replacement officials “gift-wrapped a scoring opportunity” for Chiefs QB Brady Quinn when they “called pass interference” on Cardinals CB William Gay, who “had made incidental contact” with Chiefs WR Jamar Newsome (K.C. STAR, 8/11). The AP’s Joe Kay wrote the replacement officials working Friday’s Jets-Bengals game “had a couple of tough moments.” They spotted the ball “incorrectly after one play and had to quickly move it about 4 yards ahead before the next snap.” Referee Jerry Frump “announced that a play was under review coming out of a 2-minute warning, then corrected that ‘It was just a test’” (AP, 8/10). The AP noted in Sunday's Raiders-Cowboys game, the replacement officials "spotted one ball outside the hash marks only to have [Cowboys QB Tony] Romo correct them" (AP, 8/13).
'A' FOR EFFORT? In Jacksonville, Vito Stellino wrote the replacement officials who worked the Jaguars-Giants game Friday night "seemed out of their element at times.” The officials had to “stop one play just before the snap to pick up a flag they left on the field on the previous play.” They also “seemed confused" when Giants QB Ryan Perrilloux "threw an illegal 15-yard pass because he crossed the line of scrimmage before he threw” (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 8/12). Giants coach Tom Coughlin after the game said, “They’re trying as hard as they can to do the best job they can. Is it emblematic of a preseason game? Probably. There certainly are mistakes made” (NYPOST.com, 8/11). Giants WR Victor Cruz said, “It’s by far a tough job for them. But we just want to make sure that as players, we’re protected as well” (NEWSDAY, 8/12).