NFL reaches tentative agreement with refs (Yahoo! Sports)

27 Sep

FILE - In this Dec. 24, 2011, file photo, referee Ed Hochuli (85) signals during the second quarter of an NFL football game between the Detroit Lions and the San Diego Chargers in Detroit. The NFL and referees' union reached a tentative agreement on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, to end a three-month lockout that triggered a wave of frustration and anger over replacement officials and threatened to disrupt the rest of the season. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

NEW YORK (AP) -- So long, replacement refs. The NFL's regular crews will be back on the field starting Thursday night.

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Rodgers: NFL’s replacement refs tarnishing game (Yahoo! Sports)

25 Sep

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after the Seattle Seahawks defeated the Packers 14-12 in an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 24, 2012, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- Still seething about a controversial , decisive call that went against the Green Bay Packers in Seattle, Aaron Rodgers used his weekly radio show on Tuesday to dismiss the NFL's explanation for the replacement officials' decision.

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Jim Harbaugh cons replacement refs out of two extra challenges

23 Sep

It was the officiating crew "led" by Ken Roan that proved to be a complete disaster in last Monday night's game between the Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos, and it was Roan's crew which made perhaps the most embarrassing series of mistakes in a day of football that was nearly overwhelmed by them.

Roan, who tried to corral a group of refs that seemingly would be under-qualified for junior high games, stood around while a series of meltdowns happened between the Broncos and Falcons, couldn't quite figure out what a spot foul was on two different occasions and frustrated coaches John Fox and Mike Smith to the point where the NFL felt that it had to step in and insist that coaches should stop hurting the feelings of the refs foisted upon us by the lockout of the real officials.

[Wetzel: NFL needs to come down hard on ref intimidation]

San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, another one of the violators who was sternly advised, was incensed by Roan's crew early in Sunday's 24-13 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, when Roan called an illegal block ... on the kicking team. Unsure in retrospect how a kicking team could block in the first place, Roan tried to cover his backside by saying that "By rule, there is no flag on the play."

Technically, there's no blocking in this case, but we quibble.

Roan's crew really started to mess things up in the fourth quarter. With 3:33 left, according to the excellent recap provided by ESPN's Kevin Seifert, the 49ers had called a timeout after a 3-yard run by Vikings running back Toby Gerhart. However, Harbaugh threw a challenge flag after he noticed on replays that Gerhart may have fumbled, and 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis landed on the ball.

The problem was, the 49ers had just used their last timeout, and you need a timeout remaining to challenge a call. After the game, Roan detailed what happened next, when Harbaugh sidled over to him and mounted a pretty impressive con.

"Hey, this is something that I want to challenge, but I just used my last timeout, can I challenge and get my timeout back? How does that work?'

"He asked the guys on the side and they came over and got me," Roan added. "What I told him was, 'Well you challenged it not knowing what the result of the play was going to be.' So I granted him the challenge and we went and looked at it. That was wrong. I should not have. In order to do that, he has to have two timeouts left."

Uh ... no, Ken. You just need the one. Perhaps Roan thought the 49ers DID have two timeouts left, because Harbaugh got another free challenge a few plays later. Unbelievably, Roan let him do it.

Perhaps the worst part of this debacle -- it had no real impact on the game -- was the time it took. Between discussing it between themselves, discussing it between the Special Officiating Supervisor the replacements need even though the NFL tells us that they're perfectly fine, and explaining their ridiculous rulings to both coaches, this game could have easily gone until Tuesday but for the fact that even Roan eventually realized how many timeouts a team should have in a half.

According to Kevin Lynch of, it took about 25 minutes to execute a four-play series.

[Also: Successful Hail Mary can't save Lions in defeat]

And that would be bad enough if the refs got the calls right. Sadly, the more time these discussions take, the further down the rabbit hole we go.

"Well, I think the fact that we have to talk about it after every game is something right there," Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway said about the officiating in general after the game. "I don't think in my seven-year career that I've had to do that ever. So that probably tells you the story right there."

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Earlier today, we reported what appeared to be the NFL's latest conflict-of-interest debacle with its replacement refs. One side judge was pulled from the Week 2 New Orleans Saints-Carolina Panthers game for his public displays of Saints fandom, and it was revealed that the field judge in the Week 1 Arizona Cardinal-Seattle Seahawks game may have been paid by the Seahawks as a practice official in recent years.

Then, in an interview that must have had the league office passing out the Advil, Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy said on Philly radio station 94WIP that one of the officials in the Eagles' Sunday win over the Baltimore Ravens told McCoy that he needed the running back for his fantasy football team.

"It was more like joking," McCoy told me on the phone Tuesday afternoon during an interview promoting BODYARMOR SuperDrink. "People blew it up into more than it was. It was definitely that.

"But I'll tell you what," he said with a laugh, "I wouldn't mind if [the officials] gave us some calls in some of those games for their fantasy teams."

In truth, McCoy is a bit less heavy on the subject of replacement officials than some have been. "There are times when players get frustrated, but to be honest, I think [the calls] have gone both ways. There have been bad calls for the opponents and bad calls for the Eagles, so it goes both ways, and it really matters who's playing ball."

Joking or not, we're hoping that the NFL will advise the official in question that any appearance of impropriety at a point where all replacement officials are taken to task at a forensic level isn't the best way to go.

Fantasy football advice from the Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Minute:

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Replacement refs already assigned to Week 2 games, real refs no closer to a deal

09 Sep

If you don't like anything that happens to your favorite team today or tomorrow as a result of the presence of replacement officials, this news will make you no more pleased -- according to Jay Glazer of FOX Sports, the NFL has already assigned all the replacement refs to the Week 2 schedule.

This confirms what we all suspected -- the NFL and the NFL Referees Association are no closer to agreeing to terms of a new collective bargaining agreement. We may be looking at replacement refs for a while as the official officials remain locked out.

Glazer also reported that the NFLPA has insisted the league reinstate the locked-out refs, but there's no motivation for the NFL to do so. After the crew led by Jim Core did a credible job in the 2012 regular-season opener -- a 24-17 Dallas Cowboys win over the New York Giants -- the league now has more rope, and clearly intends to use it.

"I think our officials did a more than adequate job last night and I think that we've proven that we can train them and get them up to NFL standards," Goodell said on Thursday. "I think we were dealing from a position of strength from the get-go. We did this 11 years ago. The game does not stop."

[Also: 2012 NFL predictions from Michael Silver]

Goodell was referring to an impasse between the league and its officials in 2001, though that was solved with the replacements working just one regular-season game. Then, there was one official who actually went up to Jerry Rice on the field and asked for his autograph. Now, at least through one game, things seem to be more on point.

Core's team missed a few obvious calls -- a pick play that led to a Victor Cruz catch and an obvious holding call on safety Orlando Scandrick with Cruz as the target later in the game -- but those were calls we can easily see the long-time officials miss every single Sunday.

However, that doesn't mean there won't be issues. "We're going to try and take advantage of the fact they're on national television and probably scared [bleep]less," one Giants player told Mike Freeman of CBS Sports before that game. "Every player and every staff will do the same as the games go on. We're going to try and intimidate them. Again, every team will try it."

So far, the only ones feeling a bit skittish are the officials who are watching the games from home today.

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Replacement refs perform OK in season opener (Yahoo! Sports)

06 Sep

Referee Jim Core, center, gestures alongside other game officials before an NFL football game between the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The NFL kicked off the season with replacement referees and, for the most part, nothing seemed different.

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NFLRA says talks with NFL have broken off, replacement refs to work at least Week 1

01 Sep

If you've been fairly apoplectic about the quality of officiating exhibited by the replacement refs this preseason, get ready for a new level of ineptitude. On Saturday morning, the NFL Referees' Association released a statement confirming that recent talks between the actual NFL officials and the league have gone nowhere, and the replacements will work at least the first week of the 2012 regular season.

From the NFLRA:

"We met with the NFL this morning and discussed various potential solutions to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. Unfortunately we were unable to reach any agreement.

"We are disappointed because it means that our members will not be back on the field
for Week 1 of the regular season due to the NFL's continuing lockout.

"We remain willing to negotiate with the NFL in order to reach a fair agreement. However, no additional meetings are scheduled at this time.

In an August 29 memo to all 32 teams, NFL Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson said that "we will have replacement crews on the field when the regular season begins.  The replacements have undergone extensive training and evaluation, and have shown steady improvement during the preseason.  We will continue the training with each crew and they will work as much of the regular season as necessary.  The replacement officials are dedicated and enthusiastic, have worked very hard to improve, and have persevered despite the attacks on their qualifications and  performance.  We are all grateful for their service to the NFL."

[Michael Silver: Eagles boss Jeffrey Lurie gives Andy Reid justifiable ultimatum]

As part of our effort to support the replacement officials," Anderson's memo continued, "we will employ procedures similar to those in effect in the postseason.  We will have an officiating supervisor from our staff in the replay booth at each game whose job will be to help ensure correct penalty enforcement,  administration of rules not involving fouls, operation of the game and play clocks, and game  administration.  The supervisor will be able to communicate directly with the alternate official on the sidelines.  The supervisor will not be involved in either the instant replay system or any  judgment made by the officials on the field.  As in all games, the final decision will be made by  the referee on the field and no decision will be revisited or changed once the ball has been  snapped for the next play."

[Seahawks DE Red Bryant celebrates without helmet, chips tooth as a result]

The NFL is clearly playing a game of "chicken" here, assuming that there won't be enough abhorrent calls from crews at least two steps down in quality from the real guys to affect games, cause additional injuries, or cause a suitable public uproar to push the advantage to the NFLRA's side. It's possible that something could be worked out in the next 24 hours, but the replacement officials will most likely work well into the season unless the NFLRA capitulates.

One party with sufficient interest in this labor battle might be the various television networks, who would prefer that the replacements avoid the 5-10-minute debates they've been enjoying through the preseason as they try to understand just what the heck it is they're doing. Then again, perhaps the networks can use those interminable delays to place more commercials.

In any case, and with no time for additional training, you can expect to see America's most popular sport -- a $9 billion per year enterprise -- run by zebras who are unqualified to officiate at this level under any other circumstances.

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Goodell comfortable with replacement refs (Yahoo! Sports)

01 Aug

Green Bay Packers defensive end Jerel Worthy (99) signs an autograph before NFL football training camp, Tuesday, July 31, 2012, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- With no end in sight to the labor dispute between the NFL and its officials, commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that he is comfortable with the idea of using replacement officials in preseason games.

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