The performance of the NFL replacement referees so far has done "little to dissuade visions of an impending disaster,” according to a front-page piece by Sam Borden of the N.Y. TIMES. Concerns about the replacements “vary depending on the interested parties.” Some coaches “have wondered about consistency from the officials from game to game.” NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith said that the union was “worried about safety.” But NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Ray Anderson “called the union’s worries a stretch, and defended the replacements’ abilities.” Anderson said, “At the end of it, we are very confident that this group of current officials will be credible.” Meanwhile, players continue to speak out against the replacement refs. Giants WR Victor Cruz said, “I actually overheard one of the refs saying he only refereed glorified high school games. I don’t even know what that means.” Bears K Robbie Gould on Twitter wrote that one crew of replacements “was ‘clueless,’ and that was before he saw the officials in Friday’s game between the Giants and the Bears incorrectly give the Giants an extra play at the end of the first quarter.” Vikings P Chris Kluwe also took to Twitter, writing that the “regular officials need to ‘kiss and make up’ with the NFL because the replacements are embarrassing.” This came after a game in which the officials “deemed that a runner had been tackled when he was still standing and ruled that a pass had hit the ground when it never was close” (N.Y. TIMES, 8/28). Gould after watching the Cardinals-Titans game Thursday night wrote, "@nfl when did you stop caring about the integrity of the game. …I understand there is a fine line in negotiations To get the refs back on the field. But I hope both sides can reach a deal soon." Titans coach Mike Munchak after the game said there had been "some confusion" on timeouts before halftime. Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray reportedly “walked away from an argument with replacement officials and called them ‘The Three Stooges’ on the field” (ESPN.com, 8/24).
GLASS HALF FULL: Anderson said that the NFL is “training the replacement officials and seeing improvement.” Anderson: “We went in not expecting that they’d be up to snuff with the regular officials. But we went in knowing that with training and repetitions and preseason games that when we get ready for the regular season, we felt they would be credible, and they’re proving week in and week out that they’re getting better. So we think that when we kick off a week and a half from now, we’ll have very credible crews across the board.” In Chicago, Sean Jensen writes, “Credible, though, isn’t the most encouraging word.” Bears CB Charles Tillman: "I know they’re learning on the fly, but at the same time, they’ve got to make the right call” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 8/28). In DC, Matt Brooks wrote, "The chorus of complaints from coaches and players continues to grow louder as the ongoing contractual dispute between the league and the NFL Referees Association drags on." Brooks: "Never have more players, coaches and fans longed to be re-united with Ed Hochuli's biceps and Mike Carey's straight-as-an-arrow first down signals" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/27).
WEIGHING IN: In Chicago, David Haugh writes, “Figure it out, fellas. Consider your legacy, Commish. Roger Goodell's $9 billion enterprise pinching pennies with NFL officials smacks of hypocrisy from a league that has identified player safety as its No. 1 priority.” Haugh: "For rules changes intended to protect players to work, they need to be enforced. To be enforced, they have to be identified. How can the NFL trust replacement refs to identify illegal hits they can't see?” Former NFLer Jerry Markbreit said of the replacements, “I know they're working their fannies off. But these people are not schooled in professional football. They don't know the rules. They can have supervisors on the sideline, they still can't officiate the game. The integrity of the game is everything” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8/28). In Pittsburgh, Bob Smizik writes Goodell is “paid a lot of money to run the NFL,” and he has to “find a way to get the real NFL officials on the job for the start of the season” (POST-GAZETTE.com, 8/27). YAHOO SPORTS’ Doug Farrar wrote the “simple fact [is] that the NFL's replacement officials are turning the nation's most popular and visible sport into a complete and utter joke” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/25). However, YAHOO SPORTS’ Jason Cole writes while the replacement refs are “currently a far cry from their counterparts, they will get better with experience.” Cole: “When was the last time you went to a game and said, ‘Boy, that officiating was great?’” The argument that NFL owners are “messing with the integrity of the game in their negotiation with the NFL Referees Association is laughable” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/28).