Goodell Notes Time Is Running Out For Ref CBA, Says Replacements Doing "Credible Job"
The NFL and the NFL Referees Association have yet to reach an agreement to end their lockout, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell Thursday acknowledged that “time was running out to make the regular officials available for the openers,” according to Rachel Cohen of the AP. Goodell said that possibly using replacement refs for regular-season games is “worthwhile to ensure long-term improvements to officiating.” Goodell: "We're anxious to get a deal done, but it has to get done that it's going to help us for the long term." He added that officials “probably need a week to 10 days to prepare for the season.” The first game is Sept. 5, with the first full Sunday of games Sept. 9. Goodell said of the replacement refs, “These officials have been trained. We’ve been working with them. We think they’ll do a very credible job” (AP, 8/23). Goodell added, "We’re still hopeful of getting an agreement done, but obviously that window is starting to draw to a close, so we’re prepared to go with our replacement officials if necessary" ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 8/23). In L.A., Sam Farmer reported the league is “asking that the replacement officials show up to game sites 3 1/2 hours before kickoff -- an hour earlier than officials typically arrive -- so they can receive extra training from supervisors on such rudimentary aspects such as where to stand and how to conduct the coin toss.” Some officials are “wearing ear pieces that connect them to an eye in the sky -- another official watching from the press box -- to assist them in making calls” (LATIMES.com, 8/23).
ALWAYS IN THE PLANS? NFLRA General Counsel Michael Arnold on Thursday indicated that the NFL has "‘predetermined’ there will be a lockout.” He also said that there is “no sign that either side will resume talks to head off the work stoppage heading into the regular season.” Arnold: “The league has apparently predetermined that they're going to keep us locked out until the third or fourth week of the regular season. Their strategy has always been lockout. We feel they've had a strategy from the beginning to lock us out.” Arnold said that there have been “no negotiations since July 27.” Arnold: "I've been with this group for 18 years, and they are more united and stronger in their position than I've ever seen them" (NEWSDAY, 8/24). Arnold added that the league was “proposing adding more crews without increasing the pool of money from which they would be paid -- in effect asking existing officials to pay for the newcomers.” He said that the locked-out refs “weren’t sitting idly.” Arnold: “Our guys have been doing extensive training. They’ve been doing video review. They’ve been doing rules review and rules testing” (USA TODAY, 8/24). Meanwhile, ESPN's Chris Mortensen said he has heard "many people say it’s an insult to everybody’s intelligence” the claims made by the league and some owners that they "see no difference between the replacement officials and the regular referees” ("NFL 32," ESPN2, 8/23).
MIXED MESSAGES? In DC, Deron Snyder writes at a time when it is "preaching player safety, toning down the violence, and assuaging fears about football’s consequences, the NFL doesn’t mind using replacement officials.” Players are “bigger, stronger and faster than ever,” yet the league is “satisfied to rely on officials who aren’t even top-level in college.” The replacements are “doing the best they can.” But no matter “how good they were wherever they come from, they can’t excel on the fly, surrounded by similarly-inexperienced officials.” The league is “delusional if it thinks seven-person crews working their first NFL games will perform as well as crews with years of NFL background.” Football is “dangerous enough when played within the rules.” If players are “allowed to stretch the boundaries,” then the game could “revert to the anything-goes standard of decades past” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 8/24).