Craig: Goodell can't shield players from replacement officials mess

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 29, 2012 - 9:14 AM

A survey indicated that a vast majority of NFL players believe the game will be harmed if replacement officials work the regular season.

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Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer argued with the replacement officials during the first half of a preseason game against Arizona last weekend, and he hasn’t been alone.

Photo: Rick Scuteri, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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Phil Loadholt was given three options to choose from regarding the impact on the NFL if there is no labor resolution and the league goes forward with its plans to use replacement officials in its regular-season games next week.

A, "The game will suffer greatly."

B, "Marginal difference."

C, "The game will be just fine."

Like most people who have witnessed the preseason and aren't named Roger Goodell, Loadholt thought for about .004 seconds before rendering his verdict.

"The game will suffer greatly," the Vikings right tackle said.

Loadholt was one of five Vikings I surveyed as part of a Sporting News poll of 146 players from 29 teams. Cornerback Chris Carr, who said "marginal difference," was another. The other three agreed with Loadholt by choosing "the game will suffer greatly," but chose to keep their answers anonymous.

"Personally," Loadholt said, "I just don't know if the guys who we have officiating now know what they're doing. They don't seem real qualified to me."

Loadholt's tone wasn't mean-spirited. It was more matter-of-fact. Sort of like saying, "I don't think those mall cops could have found Bin Laden."

Of those 146 players, 90.4 percent (132) said the games would be affected negatively. Only 14 said the game would be just fine.

As expected, Week 3 of the preseason served as the wake-up head slap to the realization that the NFL might actually go through with this ill-suited plan. All the blown judgment calls, the misapplications of the rules and the general confusion that were dismissed earlier in the preseason are now standing within a week of the Sept. 5 season opener.

Naturally, more players and coaches are starting to go public with their concerns and disgust.

After a particularly embarrassing performance by the replacement officials in Friday night's game at Mall of America Field, Vikings punter Chris Kluwe tweeted: "The NFL really needs to kiss and make up with the refs. These replacements are horrible. Frankly, it's kind of embarrassing."

A day earlier, Bears kicker Robbie Gould was watching the Titans and Cardinals on television when he tweeted that the officials were "clueless." After the game, Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray referred to the crew as "the Three Stooges."

The replacement officials are doing their best, but were recruited from officiating jobs at small colleges, junior colleges, high schools and low-level professional leagues. Goodell, the NFL commissioner, argues that they have been trained to officiate in the NFL, but that training included all of two months.

"We think they'll do a very credible job," Goodell said.

That statement is being laughed at throughout the league. And it should be. The officiating has been embarrassing, particularly for a multibillion-dollar outfit that is always bragging about the image of its precious "shield."

So far, the players who have spoken out haven't been fined.

"It was more recommended that we don't talk about it," Kluwe said. "It wasn't, 'Hey, don't talk about this or we'll fine you.' But it's one of those things where all you have to do is just look out there. It's like the difference between having a high school guy playing in the NFL vs. an NFL guy playing in the NFL. These guys are trying as hard as they can. But they're not used to the speed of the game, so they're missing a lot of stuff."

What we're all discovering is the regular officials were a lot better than we thought. Their judgment calls, while not perfect, are at least respectable. Their knowledge of the NFL's litany of rules also is infinitely better, obviously.

Also, some, including Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, have complained that the replacement officials don't fully understand some of the player-safety rules that have been put in place. That should be of particular concern for a league that wants everyone to believe it has made player safety one of its highest priorities.

Obviously, there's still time to get this all worked out. Goodell has said the regular officials would need seven to 10 days to get ready for the season, but it's a good bet the officials have been staying sharp enough to step in if there's the usual 11th-hour agreement next week.

"I don't think the league can afford to have mistakes like this [in the regular season]," Kluwe said. "Look at last year. The Giants, the eventual Super Bowl champs, they were one game from not making the playoffs. So if you get one bad call, the entire season is different."

In other words, Mr. Goodell, for the good of the so-called "shield," fix this mess now.

Mark Craig • mcraig@startribune.com

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St. Louis 1 Bottom 5th Inning
Pittsburgh 3
Texas - C. Lewis 2:40 PM
Seattle - E. Ramirez
Washington - D. Fister 6:05 PM
Philadelphia - K. Kendrick
Tampa Bay - D. Smyly 6:05 PM
Baltimore - K. Gausman
Boston - J. Kelly 6:07 PM
Toronto - M. Stroman
NY Yankees - S. Greene 6:08 PM
Detroit - D. Price
Atlanta - J. Teheran 6:10 PM
NY Mets - Z. Wheeler
Chicago Cubs - J. Turner 6:10 PM
Cincinnati - M. Latos
Cleveland - C. Kluber 7:10 PM
Chicago WSox - H. Noesi
Minnesota - P. Hughes 7:10 PM
Kansas City - L. Hendriks
Oakland - D. Pomeranz 7:10 PM
Houston - B. Peacock
Milwaukee - Y. Gallardo 8:10 PM
San Diego - O. Despaigne
Los Angeles - C. Kershaw 8:40 PM
Arizona - W. Miley
Miami - H. Alvarez 9:05 PM
LA Angels - H. Santiago
Colorado - F. Morales 9:15 PM
San Francisco - T. Hudson
Atlanta 8/28/14 5:00 PM
Jacksonville
Detroit 8/28/14 6:00 PM
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Philadelphia
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Miami
Carolina 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 8/28/14 6:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Baltimore 8/28/14 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Denver 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Dallas
Minnesota 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tennessee
San Francisco 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 8/28/14 9:00 PM
San Diego
Seattle 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Oakland
(21) Texas A&M 8/28/14 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 8/28/14 6:02 PM
ULM
Boise State 8/28/14 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8/28/14 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 8/28/14 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
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Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
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(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
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Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
D.C. 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
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Hamilton
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Calgary
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pm
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Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
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Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
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Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
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Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon

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