The NFL and the NFL Referees Association had "substantial talks" Tuesday and Wednesday, but they "still have not come to a resolution" in their labor dispute, according to Jay Glazer of FOXSPORTS.com. While it is "optimistic that there is communication between the two sides, serious economic gaps remain." The refs have been locked out since June (FOXSPORTS.com, 9/20). In N.Y., Judy Battista cites a source as saying that “no further talks are scheduled,” and there is “no end in sight to the standoff.” A financial gap “remains between the sides, mostly centered on the NFL’s desire to eliminate the traditional pension system and replace it with a 401(k).” The sides also are “still divided over the league’s proposal to hire additional officials, to create a bench that would enable them to replace officials they believe have underperformed” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/21).
WE'RE WATCHING YOU: ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the NFL reached out to the “owners, general managers and coaches of all 32 teams this week to advise them that the type of on-field behavior it witnessed last weekend will not be acceptable this weekend.” Broncos coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh were among the sideline personnel “spotted berating officials in a way unacceptable to the league office.” NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Ray Anderson said, “We contacted them to remind them that everyone has a responsibility to respect the game.” The league after watching coaches’ behavior with replacement officials during Week 2 “determined it was unacceptable and put everyone on notice” (ESPN.com, 9/20). The N.Y. TIMES' Battista in a separate piece reports many players say that they are “stretching what is within the rules” when replacement refs are on the field. Jaguars G Uche Nwaneri said, “It’s like when you’re in school and have a substitute teacher: you’re going to push the envelope and see how much you can get away with before they catch on and start asserting their authority.” He said the locked-out officials would call the games "tighter to maintain control over the attitude and tempo of guys” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/21). In Ft. Worth, Randy Galloway writes he saw the replacement refs during Week 2 “seriously lose a battle over control and respect, which was predictable.” Galloway: “Sooner or later, or as long as the replacements are working at a job they aren’t qualified to do, the players and coaches would take advantage of these newbies” (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 9/21).
BATTLE FOR CONTROL: QMI AGENCY’s John Kryk wrote the “longer the regular officials are locked out, the more likely it is that a crucial call will be blown in a game that will affect who makes the playoffs.” That not only would make the NFL “look ridiculous; it would be a disgrace that would be talked about for years.” What would be “catastrophic in all this is if the concern raised last month by the NFL Players Association transpires.” That is, if the “safety of players becomes compromised and someone gets seriously hurt.” Kryk: “I think we're closer to that than most people realize” (QMI AGENCY, 9/20). In Jacksonville, Gene Frenette wrote, “Can we all agree that the NFL replacement referees situation is now so combustible it might be just a matter of time before the explosion leaves commissioner Roger Goodell scrambling to mitigate the damage to his own legacy?” There are going to be "more ugly moments.” Nwaneri said, "These (replacement) guys haven't worked at this level. They're not used to the speed of our game, the violence of it. I think it's hard to expect them necessarily to jump into those situations and know exactly what to do. For players, our concern is as we go further into the season and these games count more and more, who is it going to cost? What team could potentially lose a game that might get them in or out of the playoffs? Right now, there's a lot of talking (about replacement officials), maybe a little giggling and laughing. But as you get deeper into the year, those could turn into real gripes" (JACKSONVILLE.com, 9/20).
PLAYERS WEIGH IN: Lions WR Calvin Johnson said, "I believe the game's just moving real fast for a lot of these guys. It's kind of like coming from college to the league; things are moving a lot faster. So hopefully they catch on to the speed of it and will get up to speed with the game." He added, "When we had our regular guys, they're good at seeing stuff. ... I'm not discrediting these guys. They're doing the best they can" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 9/21). Ravens S Bernard Pollard said Goodell is “quick to jump on board when something else is happening.” He added, “I don’t know what he’s doing right now but I don’t see any steps being taken.” Pollard said of the replacement refs, “This is way out of their league. It’s too fast, guys are too crafty, and they cannot control the game. My issue is, we have our commissioner who is jumping on board to hammer every other issue down in the NFL. He is jumping on board to get meetings with players when things are happening, but we have something on hand that is messing up the integrity of the league and nothing is being done about it.” He added, “These guys are star-struck. Even in the preseason one of the refs saw (Ravens quarterback) Joe Flacco and he was amazed” (BALTIMORESUN.com, 9/20).