NFL Memo To Teams Indicates League and Referees' Union Remain Far Apart
NFL Exec VP/Labor & General Counsel Jeff Pash yesterday in a memo sent to NFL teams wrote that “significant economic and noneconomic differences remain” between the NFL and the NFL Referees Assocation, according to Judy Battista of the N.Y. TIMES. The memo stated that the league “told the officials union and a federal mediator who joined the talks Sunday that it was prepared to make ‘reasonable’ compromises on economic issues in exchange for operational changes that the league is pushing for because it believed they would improve the quality of officiating.” But the memo “also makes clear that the biggest economic sticking point remains: the referees continue to seek the continuation of a traditional pension plan for existing officials, which the league wants to eliminate and replace with a 401(k) plan.” The officials, “who the league said had earlier indicated a willingness to work on a seven-year deal, now want it to last six years” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/25).
PLAY ON: Redskins player reps said that “nothing had been discussed as far as a potential boycott to protest the replacement officials.” Redskins LB Lorenzo Alexander said, “I don’t know if we can do that, though. That’s against the CBA, the collective bargaining agreement. Guys refusing to go out there and play would cost a lot of guys a lot of money as far as feeding their families. I don’t see us ever doing that” (WASHINGTON TIMES, 9/25).
CROSSED A FINE LINE: USA TODAY’s Mike Garafolo reports Broncos coach John Fox was fined $30,000 and Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio $25,000 “for their antics in a Sept. 17 loss” to the Falcons, but those numbers “might pale in comparison with the latest round of coaching discipline coming soon.” Patriots coach Bill Belichick “could be in for the stiffest fine yet and a possible suspension” under an NFL rule that “prohibits coaches from touching officials.” Belichick grabbed an official following Sunday’s game against the Ravens, but he said yesterday, “I’ve coached in this league a long time and never been penalized, never had any incidents with officials or anything like that” (USA TODAY, 9/25). Belichick added, “When the game was over, I went out and I was really looking for an explanation from the officials as to whether or not the play was under review. I did try to get the official's attention as he was coming off the field to ask that, but I really wasn't able to do that.” (ESPNBOSTON.com, 9/24). FOXSPORTS.com’s Jen Floyd Engel writes, “At some point this week, Belichick or a press release purporting to reflect his thinking will be trotted out to say how sorry he is, how wrong he was, that no matter how emotional he was he should never lay a hand on an official, that replacement refs are doing the best they can and that the league is right to vehemently defend them. It will be a lie, and Belichick should decline to be a party to it. No apologies, no shucking for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, no more excuses for the travesty that has become replacement officials this season” (FOXSPORTS.com, 9/25). However, USA TODAY’s Jarrett Bell writes, “Coming on the heels of a behave-or-else edict by the NFL, his grab must be punished severely. ... If Goodell doesn’t punish Belichick with a stiff fine -- and a suspension should not be out of the question -- the credibility of the commissioner’s office, already weakened by the assorted twists of the bounty scandal, will sink to a new low” (USA TODAY, 9/25).
ONGOING PROBLEM: The N.Y. TIMES' Battista notes Belichick was "merely the latest football figure who seemed to be at wit’s end about how to live with the replacements.” Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan earlier on Sunday followed officials “down a hallway at FedEx Field” after the Bengals-Redskins game, “shouting profanities all the way” (N.Y. TIMES, 9/25). ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano wrote, “This is just the latest deepening of a stubborn, stupid hole the NFL has dug for itself as a result of its continued lockout of the real officials” (ESPN.com, 9/24).
MONDAY NIGHT BLUES: Following the Seahawks' controversial 14-12 win over the Packers last night, Packers TE Jermichael Finley said, "The commissioner has to come and pay a visit here. Something's got to be done. I'm not trying to bash anybody, but they cost us a game” (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 9/25). Seahawks TE Zach Miller said of the ending to the game, "That hurts the game. The sooner we can have back our real officials, I think the integrity of the game is too important not to get them back" (ESPN.com, 9/25). In Seattle, Danny O’Neil noted Seahawks coach Pete Carroll “didn't criticize the way Monday's game was officiated,” but he did make “clear his feeling on the current lockout.” Carroll said, "It's time for it to be over. It's time for this to be over. My hat's off to these officials. They're doing everything they can to do it as well as they can. They have great pride. They're working their tails off. It demonstrates how difficult it is. It's a very, very complex process to handle these games and make these decisions. There's nothing easy about it, and it takes years and years of experience to pull it off properly and in a timely fashion and keep the flow of the game alive and all that” (SEATTLETIMES.com, 9/24).
ADMITTING ERROR: In Cincinnati, Kevin Kelly notes the NFL yesterday acknowledged that replacement officials “made two mistakes on the Redskins’ final drive Sunday against the Bengals.” NFL VP/Football Communications Michael Signora in an e-mail wrote that officials “should have assessed a 10-second runoff when the game was stopped for an injury” to Redskins WR Leonard Hankerson with 1:07 remaining and the Redskins out of timeouts. The officials also "assessed 25 penalty yards instead of 20" prior to the Redskins' final play (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 9/25).
WHERE TO GO FROM HERE: In Ft. Lauderdale, Mike Berardino writes players are not "sure anymore” about what constitutes a penalty. Dolphins CB Richard Marshall said, "I did the same thing on two different plays (Sunday). One play they called me for (pass interference) and the next play they didn't call it.” Berardino notes compounding matters is “the fact the replacements aren't exactly willing to share explanations the way the regular zebras might.” Marshall: "I got pushed on a route (Sunday) and they didn't call it. Then I said something to the ref about it, and he told me to get out of his face" (South Florida SUN-SENTINEL, 9/25). ESPN.com’s Ashley Fox suggested ways for the replacement refs to “be better,” and they include: set the tone early, don’t be afraid to make a bold call and understand the basics (ESPN.com, 9/24).