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The National Football League referees voted and approved their new eight-year deal with the league Saturday, according to the AP.
The measure passed by a vote of 112-5, which officially ends the lockout. Salaries will increase to $173,000 in 2013, and get up to to $205,000 by 2019.Following the vote, which took place in Irving, Texas, many refs will get on planes and fly off to various NFL cities in preparation for Sunday's games.
Fans around the league rejoiced as replacement referees have generated controversy in many NFL games. Frustrations reached an apex on Monday night, when a questionable final call determined the outcome of the Seahawks-Packers meeting. Said line judge Jeff Bergman:
"The last play of the game was something that was going to happen sooner or later. It gave us and the league an opportunity to get together and hammer out a deal that was going to get hammered out anyway."
After months of deliberations with the National Football League, the referees finally reached an agreement that would have them return to the field for Week 4. Members of the referee's association will vote by secret ballot Saturday at the DFW Marriott in Irving, Texas, to ratify their new deal with the league.
The two parties had reached a tentative deal earlier in the week that allowed the regular refs to return in time for Thursday night's game between the Browns and Ravens. The 121 regular officials were locked out in June, and the NFL began the season with replacement officials.
Calls for the NFL to come to an agreement with the referee's union peaked after a controversial call by the replacement officials during the Monday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers.
According to CBS Sports in Dallas/Fort Worth, field judge Boris Cheek said that officials are prepared to begin work immediately:
"We just know we're ready to go. We have our equipment, we have the things we need to be on the field for Sunday."
On Friday morning, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote a letter to fans of the league, expressing his apologies for the referee holdout that came to an end Wednesday night:
"I believe in accountability, not excuses. And I regret we were not able to secure an agreement sooner in the process and avoid the unfortunate distractions to the game. You deserve better."
A labor dispute between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association was not resolved in time for the regular season and for the first three weeks the officials on the field were filled by replacement referees with varying degrees of experience in the sport, but none at the NFL level.
The calls from the replacement referees were heavily scrutinized and came to a head at the conclusion of the Monday Night Football matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers in Week 3. A Hail Mary from Russell Wilson that appeared to many to be an interception by M.D. Jennings was instead called a touchdown reception by Golden Tate, drawing harsh criticism from fans, analysts, players and coaches alike.
Despite the criticism, Goodell still praised the effort of the replacement officials in his letter for their attempt at the job:
"As a lifelong fan, this wasn't an easy process for anyone involved. I particularly want to commend the replacement officials for taking on an unenviable task and doing it with focus and dedication in the most adverse of circumstances."
Following the deal that was reached on Wednesday evening, the league's regular officials returned for Thursday night's game between the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns, and will also be present for Sunday's entire slate of Week 4 games.
The real refs are back, officiating Thursday's game between the Browns and Ravens.
The crowd in Baltimore for Thursday night's game between the Ravens and Browns gave the real refs a standing ovation when they returned to the field for the first time since the lockout ended.
NFL replacement referee Lance Easley has been under heavy public scrutiny after awarding the Seahawks a game-winning touchdown on the final play of their game against the Packers Monday night, but he is standing by his controversial call.
Easley believes that he made the correct judgment is deciding that Seattle wide receiver Golden Tate had secured simultaneous possession with Green Bay defensive back M.D. Jennings in the back of the endzone as time expired. He believes the many analysts, players, coaches, and fans that feel differently are misguided, according to CBS Sports:
"It was the correct call," Easley told the entertainment website (TMZ). "I didn't do anything wrong."
The controversy over the call sparked a public outcry that may have sped up negotiations between the locked out NFL refs and the league. Commissioner Roger Goodell has lifted the lockout, as the two sides have reached an agreement. The regular referees will be in place for Thursday's game between the Browns and Ravens.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apologized to fans Thursday during a conference call with reporters that focused on the new contract with the NFL Referees Association. Wednesday's deal officially ended the use of replacement officials who had been highly scrutinized over the past three weeks of the regular season:
"Sorry to have to put our fans through that," Goodell said, acknowledging a torrid, sometimes out-of-control showing from league's replacement officials. They were never ready for the speed of the game or its complexities, but Goodell expressed hope for a return to normalcy.
On Wednesday night, Goodell and the NFLRA agreed to a new eight-year contract that immediately allowed the NFL's refs to return to work after being lockout since the beginning of the preseason. The NFL's initial plan was to use the replacement referees until a new more favorable deal was reached with the NFLRA.
However, the NFL's plan backfired, as week-by-week concerns about the performance of the replacement officials grew and finally reached a boiling point with a game-changing blown call during the Seattle Seahawks' 14-12 victory over the Green Bay Packers on Monday Night Football:
"You always have costs for the short term, but you sometimes have to experience that to get to the right place in the long term. And that's sometimes a painful thing."
The seven-man officiating crew will be led by 10-year NFL referee veteran Gene Steratore and also includes 13-year veteran umpire Bill Schuster, head linesman Wayne Mackie, who has six years of NFL refereeing experience, line judge Jeff Seeman, with 11 years as a NFL official under his belt, field judge Bob Waggoner, a 16-year veteran, side judge Jimmy DeBell, who has been officiating in the NFL for four years, and back judge Greg Steed, an official with 10 years of NFL refereeing experience.
The replay official and replay assistant will be Larry Nemmers and Ken Dollar, respectively.
As for Week 4's remaining 14 scheduled games, officiating assignments will be announced for each on-site on game day after the NFL and NFL Referees Association's agreement on a collective bargaining deal Wednesday night.
NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith echoed growing league-wide player sentiments in a statement on Thursday, noting the alleviation of many safety concerns on the field following the NFL and NFL Referees Association's agreement on an eight-year collective bargaining deal that ended the official lockout on Wednesday night.
"Our workplace is safer with the return of our professional referees," Smith said. "We welcome our fellow Union members back on our field."
The replacement officials were coming under increasingly-heavy fire for a vast array of missed penalties, phantom calls and a lack of control on the field that led to aggressive play and violent hits that were often not flagged.
The replacement officiating problem hit its peak after Russell Wilson's last second game-winning heave to receiver Golden Tate on Monday night was ruled a touchdown and gave the Seattle Seahawks a stunning win over the Green Bay Packers in what appeared to be an interception.
Quality officiating isn't so easily replaced. The NFL's regular referees knew that from the start.
The NFL reached an agreement with the referees union Wednesday night, and one of the craziest months in the history of pro football is officially over. Now that it's behind us, let's look back.
I never thought I'd be so excited to see real referees.
America is ready to see Ed Hochuli back, but Ed Hochuli is probably more ready to see America again. In fact, all day Wednesday it appears as if Hochuli was getting ready for his close-up.
I asked Ed Hochuli how many curls he's been doing: "As soon as I heard the rumors today, I got down on the floor and started doing pushups."— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) September 27, 2012
Hochuli has been training officials during the lockout in preparation for a resolution. This has probably allowed for a quick turnaround between today's agreement and the ability for refs to get moving toward officiating NFL games as quickly as Thursday. Hochuli says NFL officials have been watching hours and hours of video while taking 18 extensive rules tests to get themselves ready for an immediate return to action on the pro football field. Whether there will be rust or not remains to be seen, but what is certain is that the NFL referees are well-prepared to handle these circumstances thanks to Hochuli.
No doubt that NFL fans everywhere will be happy to see real referees on the field this week after the NFL and the NFLRA resolved their issues today. However, no one might be more jacked to return (no pun intended) than Football Hercules himself.
The NFL and the NFL Referees Association ended the officials lockout when they agreed to an eight-year collective bargaining agreement Wednesday night.
The deal, which is the longest between the two sides in NFL history, will allow officals to return to the field for Week 4, beginning with Thursday night's game between the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns. The agreement must still be ratified by the NFLRA membership with a vote planed for Friday and Saturday. To allow officials to work Thursday's game, Roger Goodell temporarily lifted the lockout.
The major agreement points include a defined benefit pension plan, retirement benefits, an increase in compensation, the option to hire officials on a full-time basis and the ability to form an official training and development program. Goodell said the agreement will allow for long-term reforms that will improve officiating. Complete details of the major agreement points can be found below in the press release from the NFL.
- Eight-year term covering the 2012-2019 seasons.
- The current defined benefit pension plan will remain in place for current officials through the 2016 season (or until the official earns 20 years of service). The defined benefit plan will then be frozen.
- Retirement benefits will be provided for new hires, and for all officials beginning in 2017, through a defined contribution arrangement, which will have two elements: an annual league contribution made on behalf of each game official that will begin with an average of more than $18,000 per official and increase to more than $23,000 per official in 2019, and a partial match on any additional contribution that an official makes to his 401(k) account.
- Apart from their benefit package, the game officials' compensation will increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.
- Beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field.
- The NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes, and may assign those additional officials to work NFL games. The number of additional officials will be determined by the NFL.
Now that the NFL and the officals have ended the lockout and agreed to deal, the two sides won't waste time getting the regular officials back on the field. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed officials would be back in time for Thursday's game between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.
"Our officials will be back on the field starting tomorrow night," Commissioner Roger Goodell said, according to a press release from the league. "We appreciate the commitment of the NFLRA in working through the issues to reach this important agreement."
Officials were reportedly holding their own training sessions during the lockout, allowing them to be ready quickly when the deal was reached. Scott Green, the president of the NFLRA, said the board of directors unanimously approved the agreement and it will be put up for a vote. According to Pro Football Talk, the vote won't come until Friday, but that won't stop a crew from working Thursday's game in Baltimore.
The NFL's lockout with the referees is officially over as the sides came to an agreement late Wednesday. There were reports the sides could be nearing an agreement earlier in the day, but NFL spokesman Greg Aiello made it official Wednesday night.
Pleased to report that an agreement has been reached with the NFL Referees Association. Details to follow.— Greg Aiello (@gregaiello) September 27, 2012
The agreement ends a more-than-four-month-long ordeal that forced the league to use replacement officials for the first three regular-season games. Despite the lockout, the officials held their own training sessions and will be ready to take over this week when Week 4 action begins on Thursday.
The deal comes after a number of controversial calls by replacement officials sparked plenty of debate this week. According to a report from Pro Football Talk, the officials will receive a pay raise of four percent.
When a deal between the NFL and NFLRA was reportedly struck to end the lockout, one man stood above the rest, flexing and welcoming you back to The Gun Show.
The NFL and the NFL Referees Association have reportedly reached an agreement on a new labor deal that will allow the referees to begin officiating games immediately. That means that a crew of union refs is expected to be on the field on Thursday night when the Baltimore Ravens take on the Cleveland Browns.
According to Pro Football Talk, the union officials will gather in Dallas on Friday to receive their equipment and game assignments for Week 4's action. The same crews who worked together last season will be intact this year. An agreement between the referees and the league had reportedly been in place for much of Wednesday, but it all officially came together on Wednesday night. The terms of the deal have not yet been released.
Replacement officials came under even more scrutiny this week after a controversial ending to the Monday Night Football matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers. As time expired, Golden Tate came down with a Hail Mary that was ruled a simultaneous catch in the end zone. The two officials signaled different things: One a touchdown and the other an interception. After review, the call on the field -- a touchdown -- was upheld, giving the Seahawks the win.
The controversial the play sparked may have been the straw that broke the camel's back -- though we'll likely never know for sure. Officials and the NFL did, however, get back to the negotiating table shortly thereafter before reaching a deal to end the lockout on Wednesday.
Ed Hochuli, arguably the most well known of the regular NFL referees, has been running training sessions with other regular officials for when a deal between them and the NFL is made. Hochuli has been running them every Tuesday night via a conference call where attendance, according to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, has ranged from 90-110 officials per week.
An unnamed referee was interviewed by King, and said he was happy with how Hochuli has set these sessions up:
"That's one of the reasons why the officials will be up to date and ready to go,'' the officiating source said. "Ed grabbed the bull by the horns and made sure that whenever this thing ended, the regular officials would be ready to go back to work immediately.''
If a deal between the officials and the NFL is struck within the next 24 hours, regular NFL officials will be in control of games this coming Sunday.
After weeks of controversy peaked on Monday, a deal between the NFL and the NFL referee's association is expected to be completed on Wednesday or Thursday, according to Albert Breer of NFL.com. As ESPN's Adam Schefter reports via colleague Chris Mortensen, the two sides are nearly finished with an agreement in principle on a new deal.
For fans around the country, the time to rejoice may be near after the stunning finish of Monday night's game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. That game was ultimately decided on a highly-controversial touchdown call by replacement referees that have been under fire from fans and media since the start of the season.
One person with experience in these kinds of situations, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, doesn't think anyone should get too excited yet, though:
Having done this before, everyone needs to wait until the ink is dry.— DeMaurice Smith (@DeSmithNFLPA) September 26, 2012
It's not clear if the referees will be able to return to the field in time for this week's slate of games even if a deal is finished on Wednesday, but all reports seem to indicate that significant progress has been made. Presumably players and coaches share Smith's hesitation to celebrate, but the era of replacement refs may not last much longer.
The lockout of the NFL's Referee Association could come to an end before Week 4, according to multiple reports.
One of the replacement referees from the Packers-Seahawks game partied into the night on Tuesday -- and took pictures with a Packers fan.
SB Nation sat down with an anonymous replacement referee to get his take on life as a replacement.
The NFL seems to have moved a bit closer to having the legitimate referees this season sooner rather than later. The league and the NFL Referees Association have reportedly come to an agreement on backup crews, though pension still remains a hurdle, according to the NFL Network's Albert Breer.
The agreement on backup crews is an interesting one, but it at least solves that portion of the problem.
The NFL wanted to add 21 full-time officials but the two sides agreed to add 21 referees to a "developmental program" that will allow the additional officials to work with the regular crews during the week. The development referees will then get promoted when it is merited, according to Breer.
Though it's great that the two sides are agreeing to things, Breer reports that retirement is still the biggest hurdle remaining. The two sides have made strides on that, though, as the NFL brought benefits experts to Tuesday's meetings (that encompassed a jaw-dropping 17.5 hours, apparently).
Walt Anderson, a locked out NFL referee, weighed in on the final play of the Packers-Seahawks game. In an interview with Kevin Kietzman on WHB in Kansas City, Anderson said,
"I would've reversed it to an interception. I just feel like that the defensive player established control, certainly a greater degree of control than the receiver, both in the air and going to the ground. Just the fact that a receiver ends up having a hand on the ball does not necessarily constitute control. I felt like, watching it live, it was an interception. And watching all the replays, I would've come to the same conclusion had I been making the decision."
Anderson went on to say, "But it's pretty clear-cut, in terms of who has control whenever they finish the process of the catch. In my mind, I feel like it's an interception."
Anderson has been an NFL referee since 2003. Before that, he served as a line judge for seven years. He worked as a dentist before retiring in 2003.
The NFL and its locked-out referees met until 2 a.m. Wednesday, but are still yet to find enough middle ground to strike a deal.
However, according to Chris Mortensen of ESPN, the owners are no longer willing to compromise in the negotiation.
In the aftermath of the Monday Night Football debacle in the Seattle Seahawks/Green Bay Packers game, the pressure is squarely on the NFL to work out a deal. The replacement referees have been officiating for the first three weeks and to this point, are still slated to work Week 4, which starts on Thursday.
The outrage since Monday has been palpable, clearly spurring the NFL to make some kind of a move in order to appease its fan base along with the players and coaches.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had plenty to be livid about after losing Monday night's game against the Seattle Seahawks on a controversial call by replacement referees, but he sounded more frustrated than angry in comments made on The Aaron Rodgers Show Tuesday morning.
When asked what he thought of the officiating that gave the Seahawks a 14-12 victory on a Hail Mary pass that appeared to be intercepted by Packers safety M.D. Jennings, Rodgers addressed the broader issue.
"First of all, I've got to do something that the NFL is not going to do, and I have to apologize to the fans. Our sport (has) generated a multi-billion dollar machine, by people who pay good money to come watch us play. And the product on the field is not being complemented by an appropriate set of officials. The games are getting out of control," said Rodgers.
Rodgers later added that he was unimpressed by the NFL's statement about the call, saying that they were "covering their butt." He didn't go as far as to post NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's phone number on his Facebook page, or make any profane comments, but it's clear the eighth-year veteran is incredibly frustrated, and rightfully so.
DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFLPA, released a statement to NFL players on Tuesday regarding the ongoing referee lockout. Smith told players that by locking out the referees, the NFL owners are jeopardizing the health and safety of the players, saying "this decision to remove over 1,500 years of collective experience has simply made the workplace less safe."
Smith went on to say that it is the NFL's responsibility to provide as safe a workplace as possible and went after the league's approach to the lockout:
"The League will want fans, the media and sponsors to talk only about ‘the product' on the field. We are not product."
The referee lockout situation may have reached its boiling point on Monday night, when a controversial call allowed the Seattle Seahawks to defeat the Green Bay Packers. Since that game, the league and the referees are reported to have scheduled a meeting for Tuesday.
Although there is little Smith and the NFL can do, he closed his statement by saying, "We are actively reviewing any and all possible actions to protect you."
The NFL and the NFLRA is expected to meet Tuesday in hopes of moving closer to a deal that would end the use of replacement referees, SI.com's Peter King is reporting. The meeting between the two parties is taking place in the New York area less than 24 hours after Monday's controversial finish between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks.
The ending of Seattle's 14-12 victory, which featured an obvious blow call by the officials that led to the Seahawks winning on a Hail Mary pass in the final seconds, is expected to be the straw that broke the camel's back on this hot-button topic that was exposed during Week 3 of the NFL regular season.
However, there's still some doubt that the NFL and NFLRA can reach an agreement before the start of Week 4, which begins Thursday with the Baltimore Ravens hosting the Cleveland Browns (8:20 ET on NFL Network).
For more on the NFL replacement referees, check out the SB Nation NFL homepage.
Sports Illustrated's Peter King reported that the NFL and the Referees Association met on Sunday afternoon. However, there wasn't much progress in getting the referees a new deal. Whats more discouraging is that King doesn't know the next time these groups will sit down for negotiations:
The league and the NFL Referees Association (the union for the 120 real officials) negotiated much of Sunday, until close to 9 p.m., in New York with a federal mediator present. But talks broke off with substantial differences remaining on several key issues, and the two sides didn't schedule any further negotiations.
In his weekly article for SI.com, King brings up several examples of officiating gaffes from games such as Minnesota-San Francisco, Tennessee-Detroit, even Sunday night's Baltimore-New England game. King goes on to say that it won't be too long before these gaffes cost a team a victory:
It's only a matter of time before some gaffe like a 27-yard penalty or two extra challenges costs some team a game it should have won. I think the league is going to have to compromise more than it wants to. The alternative is just too ugly. We've seen the alternative play out too often over the last eight days.
Those wacky replacement refs were at it again in Week 3. Here's the worst in officiating this week.
Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will likely be fined after yelling at replacement officials for mismanaging an end-of-game situation in his team's loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
The last time the NFL and the NFL Referees Association talked was Sept. 1. Since then, progress toward resolving the lockout has been at a standstill as the debate over the quality of work from the replacements takes center stage. There are faint signs of hope on the horizon, however, as the two sides will reportedly talk Sunday or Monday, says Jay Glazer of Fox Sports.
I'm told NFL planning to talk w refs association today or tomorrow. Prob not as formal as talks this week but at least there's communication— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) September 23, 2012
News of talks, even informal talks, comes the same day that the NFLPA released a statement urging the league to end the lockout and bring back the regular referees.
Player safety and competitiveness were at the heart of the Players Association memo, but another concern developing around the replacements is the ballooning length of games. The New York Times reported in a Sunday feature that the average length of games in Week 2 was 3 hours and 14 minutes, tied for the third-longest average length of games in 20 years. That comes as a concern for the league and its advertisers, which pay top dollar for a spot during the ratings bonanza that is an NFL broadcast.
The hope is that informal talks will then lead to the resumption of formal negotiations.
The NFL Players Association has sent a letter to NFL owners urging they bring back the locked-out referees and stressing that failing to do so impacts the safety of the players:
Your decision to lock out officials with more than 1,500 years of collective NFL experience has led to a deterioration of order, safety and integrity. This affirmative decision has not only resulted in poor calls, missed calls and bad game management, but the combination of those deficiencies will only continue to jeopardize player health and safety and the integrity of the game that has taken decades to build.
As we predicted and explained to you weeks ago, the removal of the veteran officials from regular season games left a group of your replacements who have proved to be incapable of keeping pace with the speed of the game.
The letter also criticizes NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for his public stances on player safety and his willingness to fine players heavily for hits deemed illegal on the field. The letter also notes that the two sides in the referee lockout are reportedly only about $60,000 apart per team in reaching an agreement.
Although the NFL players cannot strike because of rules in their collective bargaining agreement, the CBA does give players the right to refuse work if they believe their safety is in danger.
Former NFL official Jerry Markbreit shared some harsh words on the league and referee lockout during a Wednesday appearance on ESPN New York. Asked about commissioner Roger Goodell's take on the replacement refs and the need to resolve the labor standoff with the NFLRA, Markbreit did not mince words.
"My personal opinion is he doesn't care about the officiating. He doesn't value the officiating."
Markbreit was one of several officials asked to train replacement referees during the offseason. There was a minor controversy when the league asked the group to return their computers and equipment after refusing to train the substitute referees. In his Wednesday interview, Markbreit recounts the event and says that the league definitely fired them.
"They said, ‘We expect you to train the replacements. We want you to be in Atlanta on this date and then Dallas on this date.' And Ben Montgomery, who's the head of our training program, said, ‘Wait a minute. We are not going to train the replacements.' They said, ‘We need a voice vote. Nobody turns the NFL down.' We took a voice vote. Everybody said no. They said, ‘In that case, you guys are fired.' They asked for our computers back and shut off our website."
He went on to express an increasingly common view in the NFL world, that the replacement referees pose a danger to the integrity of the game.
A transcript of the complete interview is available from Sports Radio Interviews.
Talks between the NFL and its regular referees last happened on Sept. 1. Competing visions for the officials' retirement plan seems to be the biggest sticking point.
The NFL keeps on trotting our replacement officials, and more embarrassing incidents seem to pop up, with the latest involving Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy. McCoy revealed in a radio interview with Sports Radio WIP that one official told him during the game, "McCoy, come on, I need you for my fantasy [team]."
This is the second terrible story in as many days reflecting poorly on the NFL's new officials; one referee was removed from a New Orleans vs. Carolina football game for being a Saints football fan. Players like Scott Fujita and London Fletcher have been less than pleased. And of course there have been numerous missed calls or bad moments that have stalled or delayed football games.
The league says they have a plan in place until Week 5, but right now the replacement officiating can't be encouraging.
On an incomplete pass, the referees mistakenly allowed the clock to continue running when it should have been stopped. Scott Fujita, part of the Saints bounty case and an outspoken player, took issue with that.
Missed calls & bad calls are going to happen. That's part of the deal & we can all live with it. But not knowing all the rules...— Scott Fujita (@scottfujita99) September 17, 2012
...and major procedural errors (like allowing the clock to run after an incomplete pass) are completely unacceptable. Enough already.— Scott Fujita (@scottfujita99) September 17, 2012
He's right. It's one thing to complain about judgment calls -- like pass interference. We're probably going to be complaining about calls like that whether it's a regular referee or a replacement referee.
But the procedural issues, like the one in the Browns-Bengals game, are unacceptable under any circumstances. That absolutely can not happen.
In some ways, I'm glad that the replacement refs are screwing up like this. It puts even more pressure on the NFL to do a deal with the NFLRA and be done with this. Even mild-mannered Joe Flacco wondered after the Ravens game if this was affecting the integrity of the game. We can't keep spending every Monday morning reviewing how the refs screwed it up.
Side judge Brian Stropolo was supposed to work Sunday's Saints-Panthers game, before the league was made aware through Stropolo's Facebook that he is a Saints fan.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald went on with Artell and Andy on Daybreak on Fox Sports Radio Thursday morning, noting that the usage of replacement referees has had little impact on the games so far this season.
Fitzgerald explains how he is too focused on his job on the field to pay attention to how the referees are doing.
On the replacement officials:
"After one week I would say there's not really much of a difference. I really don't pay that much attention, to be honest with you. You know how it is when you're on the field, you're in the flow, you're in your game. You don't really think about all the things that are going on around you. You just try to go out there and be and play fast. I don't think there's much of a difference right now, but obviously there's been some calls missed along the way, but that's to be expected. These guys are coming in and doing the best they can."
The six-time Pro Bowler caught four passes for 63 yards during the Cardinals 20-16 victory last Sunday, though was targeted 11 times during the game. There were 23 penalties called for a total of 192 yards by the replacement referees.
Replacement referees were on the field for Week 1 in the NFL. SB Nation reviews their work through the eyes of the fan.
Five weeks. The NFL has plans in place to use replacement referees through Week 5 of the 2012 season, according to a report from the Associated Press.
That report follows an earlier one from the NFL Network revealing that the league has the replacement crews scheduled for the first three weeks of the season. Steve Wyche of the NFL Network said that the plans through Week 5 are "tentative."
Reports about the league's scheduling plans for replacement referees outnumber any reports of negotiations between the league and its regular officials represented by the NFL Referees Association, who have been locked out by the league since June.
The two sides last talked in early September, prior to the start of the regular season. Expanding plans to use replacements through Week 5 would not seem to bode well for progress between the league and its usual officials.
Talks over a new collective bargaining agreement between the league and referees stalled over disagreements on salaries, benefits and accountability measures for working officials.
London Fletcher says there is 'definitely' a difference between the replacement NFL officials and their locked-out counterparts.
As the battle between the NFL Referees Association and the NFL continues on, the league is set to use replacement refs when the season officially kicks off next weekend. Both sides met on Saturday according to Jason LaCanfora, NFL Insider for CBS and CBSSports.com, but it appears that no progress has been made to end the lockout:
NFL Refs Association releases statement saying talks this morning did not produce resolution and "disappointed" they won't work Week 1...— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) September 1, 2012
The labor issues began on May 31st, once the CBA expired and has raged on for the last three months with no apparent end in site. According to LaCanfora, however, the NFLRA says they are still open to negotiating with the league.
The NFL and its locked-out officials in the NFLRA will meet on Friday, says Adam Schefter of ESPN. The meeting comes with the regular season scheduled to start in less than a week, on Wednesday, Sep. 5.
Earlier in the week, the two sides engaged in a round of public sparring via the media. The NFL sent out a memo to teams on Wednesday telling them that the league would continue to use replacement officials for the start of the season.
The NFLRA responded hours later by questioning the league's commitment to resolving the situation, pointing to the lack of talks up to that point.
Replacement officials have been used throughout the preseason with mixed results. Several high profile figures, from coaches to media members, have complained about the quality of officiating with the replacement crews. Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray went so far as to call them "the Three Stooges."
A considerable distance between the two sides remains over issues ranging from compensation, benefits, and expanding the pool of officials.
The NFL Referees Association responded to NFL executive Ray Anderson's message to the league by issuing their own statement, one that questioned the league's commitment to ending the lockout. The NFLRA made clear on Wednesday just how far apart the two sides have become.
NFLRA says refs are "ready to go" and "If the NFL is serious about negotiating, we are ready, but we can’t negotiate with ourselves."— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 29, 2012
Furthermore, the officials called out the NFL for not reaching out to them, then said it was "consistent" with the league's negotiating strategy, according to the Associated Press.
Anderson, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations, released a statement earlier on Wednesday that told NFL teams that the league was ready to work with the replacement referees for as long as necessary. He added that they would continue to train the replacement referees, giving little evidence that an end to the lockout is in sight.
For more on the NFL and the referee lockout, check out SB Nation's NFL hub.
The NFL has sent a memo to all 32 teams notifying them that replacement referees will be used at the beginning of the regular season, according to Mike Freeman of CBS Sports. The season begins on Sept. 5 when the Dallas Cowboys take on the defending champion New York Giants.
This presumably comes as some pretty unfortunate news for players and coaches around the league, as many have been outspoken in their belief that the replacement referees aren't equipped for the job. Considering that these complaints were made during meaningless preseason games, dissatisfaction could hit an entirely new degree with real wins on the line.
The NFL has been negotiating with the referee association for weeks, but there has been minimal progress in the completion of a new deal. Until then, it appears that the league is content to use replacement referees, even as people around the league display their discontent.
The names of the NFL's replacement referees have remained fairly anonymous throughout the preseason.
Their work, on the other hand, has been highly visible, and prompted Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray to name the fill-in zebras Larry, Curly and Moe.
Gray was seen tangling with the officials in a flag-filled fourth quarter in Thursday night's game against the Arizona Cardinals. It was that exchange that prompted Gray to break out the Three Stooges reference, according to Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean.
Titans head coach Mike Munchak complained about the officiating in his post-game comments.
"I think they just got a little sloppy at the end. It seemed like nothing was called most of the game and then all of a sudden there's a lot of calls. At the end of the game there was a little confusion on was the last ball complete or incomplete."
Referees called back-to-back holding penalties as the Titans tried to kick a field goal. On one of those calls, they misidentified the player in question, flagging Leroy Harris who was not even on the field.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis also complained about the officials for a personal foul on Taylor Mays. The Cincinnati safety leveled a big hit on Packers tight end Tom Crabtree. Mays led with his shoulders to deliver the hit, and the personal foul flag is usually reserved for when a player leads with his head.
The NFL has reportedly hardened its stance in negotiations with the referees association. Replacement refs are likely to be on the field when the regular season starts Sep. 5.
It looks like the NFL might be stuck with replacement officials this season. But what if we did away with officials entirely? Is there any system in which the NFL could function without them? Here, we do our best to come up with one.
With little more than two weeks remaining prior to the start of the NFL's regular season, Ray Anderson, head of the league's officiating department, stated in an interview with Newsday that the league is planning to start the year with replacement officials.
The NFL is currently in negotiation with the NFL Referees Association and the two sides are having a difficult time coming to terms on common ground.
The source of the contention is based in a seven-year contract offer from the NFL that also proposed an increase of 21 officials to the current pool. With the referees seeking a 20% raise in salary, the union is arguing that an addition of staff would ultimately only lower their pay. In addition, the officials want to keep the structure of their current pension plan, while the NFL is interested in altering it.
This has left Anderson looking towards a future without his regular officials.
"I would anticipate that it would go into the regular season, unless the parties get back to the table in a hurry,'' Anderson said. "And frankly, I don't see either of us stepping forward and making that move.
"We feel we have been aggressively fair in our offer on the economic and non-economic issues, and they don't. Until that bridge is narrowed or shortened some, and I don't know when that time might come, I'm focused on getting the current officials ready for Week 3 and Week 4 ."
San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh tried his best not to comment on the replacement officials that officiated his team's preseason game against the Houston Texans on Saturday, but ended up saying enough to possibly earn a call from the league office.
Teams and coaches are not to speak on the replacement officials but after letting the press know of that fact during the first portion of his postgame presser, Harbaugh found time to still get in what he was truly feeling about the officials' performance, according to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com.
"Big interference call in third quarter was some big yardage on that drive. I don't know. It's interesting. I don't have the pulse on this game," Harbaugh said. "What was it exactly? Us? Them? Some crazy, wild calls. Were they accurate? Weren't they? We'll see. I have a headache, though. I have a darned headache. A lot of them didn't seem like they were in the ballpark."
With replacement officials looking like they'll be around through the first week of the season, the NFL and its coaches will have to try to keep the peace for as long as they can.
For more on the 49ers, check out Niners Nation.
Despite the constant criticism coming from all corners, NFL league executives expect to begin the 2012 regular season with replacement officials still in place, as Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter of ESPN report. The NFL and the NFL Referees Association aren't making progress on a new deal as the two sides continue to discuss a variety of issues.
During the first week of the preseason, fans saw that the replacement referees are still a work in progress, as numerous officials made mistakes during the first series of games. The league has continued to make assignments for future games with the replacement officials, though, an indication that it anticipates the referee lockout to last into the regular season.
The NFL has pushed for a variety of concessions from referees this summer, including an increase in the number of full-time referees and an increase in the overall pool of possible referees to select from for game assignments, but the referees have refused to budge on the demands thus far.
For more on the NFL and referees lockout, check out this StoryStream.
How well are the replacement refs doing? Not so well. Not so well at all, in fact.
During a matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons, a replacement ref reviewed a play. After stumbling through the ruling, he said "Arizona will not be charged a timeout." This was, technically, true. The Cardinals were not charged a timeout ... because they weren't playing in the game.
Arizona played last Sunday against the Saints. The Cardinals play again tomorrow night in Kansas City. I just ... man it's going to be a long season.
The NFL preseason schedule continues on Thursday night with six more games, which means six more opportunities to see replacement referees in action. In last week's Hall of Fame game the replacement referees left a bit to be desired. The NFL and the NFL Referees Association has been embroiled in a labor dispute throughout the summer, which has resulted in the league locking the referees out and using replacements.
More preseason games on the way means more opportunities to ask coaches and GMs what they think of the replacement referees.
Problem is, the league has already told teams not to discuss the referee lockout, according to an NFL memo obtained by Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com.
"Finally, we remind you that club personnel should not engage in public discussions about the lookout. We have attached some talking points for use by owners and a separate set of talking points for use by head coaches, if necessary. If you are asked about the negotiations or the replacement offcials, feel free to refer the question to our office. Please share these expectations with your coaches, players and operations staff so that all may contribute to the success of our officials on the field in 2012."
So get ready for a lot of talking points that don't focus the attention on the referee lockout or the work of the replacement referees. The teams will defer the matter to the league office, who then probably won't comment on it. Around and around we go...
For more on the NFL and referees lockout, check out this StoryStream.
On Thursday night, Shannon Eastin will become the first female referee to work an NFL game.
Shannon Eastin is expected to become the first woman referee to work an NFL game on Thursday night.
NFL football returns on Sunday night when the preseason schedule kicks off with the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game. The year's game features the Arizona Cardinals taking on the New Orleans Saints, marking the return of a one-year hiatus after last year's game was nixed because of the lockout and labor dispute between the NFL and the NFLPA. Labor troubles and another lockout hover over this year's Hall of Fame Game as well.
This time the referees are locked out as the league and the NFL Referees Association square off over a labor deal. With progress between the two sides somewhere between minimal and nothing, the league is bringing in a battalion of replacement referees culled from the ranks of Division II & III college football, the CFL and even high schools. The new faces calling the games has more than a few players, coaches, fans, pundits and others concerned about the quality of play on the field and even player safety.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers veteran tight end Dallas Clark was one of several to express his feelings about the replacement refs. When asked whether or not he was concerned about the new officials, Clark told USA Today:
"Absolutely. ... It's a fast game and that's why you see your officials that have been around for 20 (years), the reason they're good is because they've been doing it for that long. ... That's one of those things that you never want to say that refs win or lose games or things like that. But in a situation like that, who knows what could happen with certain situations of a game that they might not handle it correctly."
Clark's statement echoed the NFLRA's criticism over the replacement refs. The referees union points to the extensive year-round training referees receive and the significant differences between the rules of the professional games versus other football leagues where the replacements come from.
"The NFL would never put more than one rookie official on a crew," NFLRA president Scott Green said recently. "[Using replacements] has got to be pretty unsettling to players and coaches, not to mention fans. The folks that are going to be on the field are not of NFL quality."
Referees also warned of the threats to player safety and the overall competitiveness of the game. Veteran ref Ed Hochuli, a past NFLRA president, warned of player taking advantage of the untrained eyes.
"There is a great deal of atmosphere control. Players know who we are. They're going to see how far they can push it, going to see how much they can get away with."
On the other side, the NFL contends that the replacements will be just fine following two months of training. As part of that training, replacement refs were at team practices last week. Officiated practices are a normal part of training camp as the league sends in the referees as part of their own preparation for the season.
Reviews out of practices for the replacement refs were not good.
"Quit blowing your whistle! We're trying to get work done! ... Stop! These guys (players) know what they're doing!"
Others have complained that the replacement refs have missed important calls that could change the outcome of a game or help keep players safe. Chicago Bears offensive lineman Roberto Garza admitted to trying to take additional leeway in the trenches with the less experienced eyes watching the game.
Some have been more pointed in their criticism of the refs.
So what can fans expect from the replacement referees on the field Sunday night?
The last time replacement referees called a game was in 2001, when they threw half the number of flags as the regular crews, according to the NFLRA. Some may be relieved to see the refs keeping their flags in their pocket, at least until it swings the outcome of a game.
Video review has expanded substantially since 2001, which removes some of the danger of refs missing a key call, but the video booth can only help so much. Besides, the replay officials will be replacements as well.
Just as replay rules have expanded, so have the stipulations governing more complex matters on the field such as pass interference, crackback blocking, tackling and more. Those areas could be especially dicey since the rules have been altered as the league looks to expand safety measures for players. The NFL has also placed a heavier burden on referees in recent years in preventing and spotting injuries, particularly concussions. An injury to a star player in a game replacement refs let get out of control would likely be a more bitter pill for fans to swallow than a blown call on a scoring play.
Preseason football usually fails to elicit more than a shrug from even the most passionate fans. That could change on Sunday night when the world gets its first look at how rookie refs could impact the season ahead.
Replacement officials descended on NFL training camps this week for a crash course in the professional game. Chicago Bears offensive lineman Roberto Garza said what many fans and the media have wondered about with regards to replacement NFL officials. In an interview with Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune, Garza acknowledged players taking advantage of the replacement officials calling games.
"They've been around the game," Garza said. "They know what they're doing. But we might be able to get away with more. That would be good for us."
The league and the NFL Referees Association are in a standoff, with the regular officials locked out amid negotiations over a new labor agreement. In order to move on with the season, the league has brought in replacements culled from the ranks of Division II and III NCAA football leagues, the CFL and even high school football.
Locked-out officials have criticized the decision to bring in replacements on the grounds that their inexperience will jeopardize competitive play as well as put players at increased safety risk. On a July 18 conference call with the NFLRA, the organization's president Ed Hochuli presaged Garza's remarks:
"There is a great deal of atmosphere control. Players know who we are. They're going to see how far they can push it, going to see how much they can get away with."
The NFL pushed back on those claims. From a July 18 league response to the NFLRA claims:
These high-quality officials will be prepared to work preseason games, beginning with the Pro Football Hall of Fame game on August 5. We have made substantial investments in training despite the efforts of the NFLRA to denigrate the replacements and disrupt the training process ... We are confident that these game officials will enforce rules relating to player safety.
Reviews out of camp so far have not been positive for the replacement refs. Biggs' article noted veteran scouts' concerns over the refs calling "only what is obvious." One veteran journalist described the new officials' work at camp as "pitiful."
DeMaurice Smith, NFLPA executive director, expressed concerns about the impact on player working conditions, i.e. safety and fairness, in an interview with Amy K. Nelson of SB Nation. Smith would not answer a question about whether players would consider a walkout over the issue. You can see Smith's complete interview below.
There is no end in sight yet to the standstill between an the NFL and referees over a new collective bargaining agreement. Speaking with reporters at Green Bay Packers training camp on Wednesday, league commissioner Roger Goodell said he is comfortable with using replacement officials beginning with Week 1 of preseason.
There is potential for a player walkout over concerns about the game and safety if the league does decide to use referees who are retired or hail from semi-professional leagues. NFL Player Association executive director DeMaurice Smith refused to say which way players were leaning when speaking with Amy K. Nelson and SB Nation, but he did say that "[a]n unsafe working environment is always something that is actionable on behalf of our union."
Goodell said that safety is "obviously such a focus for us" while maintaining that the replacements would be trained with the players in mind.
You can check out Smith's interview with Amy K. below:
DeMaurice Smith sat down with SB Nation's Amy K. Nelson on Friday afternoon in Washington, D.C. to discuss a variety of topics. He spoke specifically to the current referee lockout and his concerns about player safety with replacement refs.
The NFL and its referees are mired in a stalemate over a new labor agreement. WIth the officials locked out and talks at an impasse, the league is preparing to use replacement referees recruited from the ranks of high school and junior college officials. If the NFL starts the season with the replacement refs, one of them could be the first on-field female referee in the history of the NFL.
Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times reported the news on Saturday morning:
If NFL uses replacements, history could be made. One of the stand-ins is ref Shannon Eastin, in line to be first female on-field official.— Sam Farmer LA Times (@LATimesfarmer) July 21, 2012
Replacement officials were in Dallas on Friday for a training session with the league.
The labor agreement between the NFL Referees Association lapsed on June 3, at which point the NFL locked out officials. The NFLRA has criticized the league's decision to use replacement officials, while the league maintains that the replacements can be effective.
The NFL said that it did not fire officials responsible for training referees after they refused to train replacement referees, in response to Sam Farmer's article in the Los Angeles Times.
Farmer reported on Friday that the league asked Jerry Markbreit and eight other former referees to turn in their computers. Markbreit and the others were never officially terminated, but the veteran official with more than 30 years of experience said that they felt as though they were fired.
The NFL said that the computers and access were taken away in order to be used by replacement officials tasked with training the replacement refs. A group of replacements consisting mostly of high school and junior college refs were in Dallas on Friday for training.
The NFL locked out its referees on June 3 when the two sides failed to reach a new labor agreement.
Markbreit expressed his frustration with the league over the situation in the original report from Farmer:
"We're in limbo," Botchan said. "We're so upset with them .... We've done a lot for that league."
Continued negotiations between the NFL Referees Association and the league are also in limbo.
The standoff between the NFL and its referees took another ugly turn on Friday. Jerry Markbreit, an NFL official for more than three decades, and eight other officials were told to turn in their equipment by the league for refusing to train replacement referees, according to a report from Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times.
The nine former officials fired have provided training for NFL referees for a decade, with 22 Super Bowls between them. Prospective replacement officials, culled from the ranks of high school and junior college refs, met in Dallas for training on Friday.
Markbreit and the others never received an official termination notice from the league. Instead, they were asked to return computers provided to them by the league.
"They wanted us to train the replacements, which we would absolutely not do," Markbreit said. "We were all officials for 20-plus years .... How could we face our people? There wasn't a question about us doing this. We knew this was coming.
"It's very discouraging for [the league] to have put us in this kind of situation."
The NFL locked out the referee association on June 3, when the two sides failed to reach a new labor agreement. At issue are pay increases and a defined benefit plan. The league has proposed moving away from the current pension system in favor of something along the lines of a 401k plan.
With no agreement, the NFL will proceed with using replacement referees. The union and others have criticized that plan as a risk to player safety and the overall competitiveness of the game.
On a Wednesday conference call, the NFL Referees Association told the national media that the league has refused negotiations in the weeks since locking out officials on June 3. The NFL says otherwise, refuting that claim in a statement released Wednesday afternoon, following the NFLRA media session.
The NFL statement made to Pro Football Weekly said:
"That is absolutely false. We have negotiated in good faith for past 9 months."
The league also pushed back on the NFLRA contention that replacement refs will hurt the quality of the product on the field, telling Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal:
"We only began the process of hiring replacements when the NFLRA told us of its intention to have its members authorize the union leadership to call a strike. In order to ensure that there is no disruption to NFL games this season we began last month hiring and training replacement officials. These high-quality officials will be prepared to work preseason games, beginning with the Pro Football Hall of Fame game on August 5. We have made substantial investments in training despite the efforts of the NFLRA to denigrate the replacements and disrupt the training process. Our goal is to maintain the highest quality of officiating for our teams, players, and fans, including proper enforcement of the playing rules and efficient management of our games. We are confident that these game officials will enforce rules relating to player safety. Contrary to NFLRA leadership, we do not believe that players will 'play dirty' or intentionally break the rules."
The NFLRA maintains that it has never called for a strike. The referee union has stood by its claim that the quality of officiating would suffer with replacement officials, pointing out the intense training officials go through to prepare each season and noting the league's own rules for putting more than one rookie official on a crew.
The back and forth should sound familiar, echoing similar rhetoric used in last year's lockout fight between the players union and NFL.
With slight less than 3 weeks until the Aug. 5 Hall of Fame Game, the impact of replacement refs will be felt soon enough.
For news and updates pertaining to the referee lockout, stay tuned to this StoryStream from SB Nation NFL.
The NFL Referees Association called out the league for its commitment to player safety on Wednesday afternoon. Referees are currently locked out after their collective bargaining agreement with the NFL lapsed in June. The league is planning to hire replacement referees which the NFLRA says undercuts the seriousness of the league's stated concerns over player safety.
"There is a great deal of atmosphere control," explained veteran NFL referee and past NFLRA president Ed Hochuli on a Wednesday conference call with the media. "Players know who we are. They're going to see how far they can push it, going to see how much they can get away with."
Hochuli and Scott Green, current NFLRA president, used the example of leg whips and shots on a pulling guard as infractions related to player safety that could be left uncalled.
With the lockout ongoing and no resolution in sight, the NFL is planning to bring in replacement officials. Those "scabs," as the NFLRA representatives referred to them, lack the same level of experience and training that comes with being an NFL referee.
NFLRA officials described the lengthy process officials go through each year in order to be ready for the season. Citing the complexity of the league's rules, both Green and Hochuli emphasized just how important ongoing training was for even the most senior of officials, much less a newcomer.
"The NFL would never put more than one rookie official on a crew," Green said in discussing the difficulty of the job. "[Using replacements] has got to be pretty unsettling to players and coaches, not to mention fans. The folks that are going to be on the field are not of NFL quality."
Players, coaches and fans could very well get a taste of those replacement officials when the preseason opens later next month. Talks between the NFL and the NFLRA are at a standstill. The NFLRA says that is has "continuously indicated" their willingness to resume talks over a new collective bargaining agreement since being locked out on June 3.
The NFL has given no indication of a willingness to resume talks, say the frustrated referees.
"The lockout seems to be their negotiating strategy with everybody," said Mike Arnold, NFLRA legal counsel and lead negotiator, making reference to the collective bargaining standoff between the league and its player in 2011.
In the interim, referees have continued their preparations for the season, studying video, taking quizzes over the rules and other methods to hone their skills. More than once NFLRA representatives on the conference call mentions that they would be ready to go when the season starts.
"When the lockout ends, we'll be ready to take the field," Hochuli said. "Missing the preseason hurts."
Wednesday's call marked a more public and more direct line of criticism over the league's commitment to player safety and competitiveness, two issues the NFL considers to be paramount to its success. Time will tell if that is enough to lure the league back to the bargaining table. For now, a referee lockout is unlikely to draw the attention of fans like a high profile lockout involving the players. That could change when fans see replacement refs in action during the preseason.
As NFL referees continue collective bargaining with the NFL amid a lockout, the NFL has firmed up its plans for how to handle replacement referees if a deal is not negotiated in time for the beginning of the preseason schedule. In a memo obtained by SB Nation, the league spelled out its contingency plans to provide replacement officials should a deal not get completed.
Ron Baynes, the NFL's director of recruiting, sent a memo to league scouts asking them to contact officials that they felt might be interested in working as replacement officials. Baynes provided a list of officials they would suggest targeting. The list included two specific types of experiences the league would be looking for in replacement officials.
"1. An Official who have recently retired from a successful career in College officiating and is still physically able to officiate at a high level of competency.
"2. Lower division college officials, professional league officials and semi-professional league officials whose window of opportunity for advancement has pretty much closed but who have the ability to work higher levels but just got overlooked."
The NFL had confirmed contingency plans to hire replacement officials, but this memo provided the first official details of what they were looking for in these replacement referees. While football referees at any level know the basics of the game, nothing can prepare an official for the speed of the NFL. When NFL rookies are asked about the biggest difference between college and the NFL, the first thing they talk about is the speed of the game.
Here is the memo in its entirety:
To: 2012 NFL Scouts
The NFLRA and the NFL are in negotiations for a new CBA for the coming years. As of this date they have not come to a satisfactory agreement. Both sides are still working very diligently in an effort to avoid an officiating work stoppage. Efforts are being made to avoid a repeat of the 2001 season but as of today neither side has been able to come to a satisfactory agreement. Negotiations are ongoing. The NFL has a responsibility to the game and its fans to make sure the 2012 season will go on as planned. Thus, a contingency officiating replacement plan is being initiated. This plan is a contingency plan only and hopefully all issues will be resolved before replacement action is taken.
As part of the contingency plan, I am asking you scouts to contact officials that you feel might be interested in working as a replacement officials should there be a strike or lockout and have them contact me for an application. Listed below are the group of officials we suggest targeting:
1. An Official who have recently retired from a successful career in College officiating and is still physically able to officiate at a high level of competency.
2. Lower division college officials, professional league officials and semi-professional league officials whose window of opportunity for advancement has pretty much closed but who have the ability to work higher levels but just got overlooked.
3. All applying officials should be in good health and look the part of a fit and capable official.
4. All applying officials should be in a position to give their full officiating attention to the NFL without conflict from other officiating commitments.
5. All applying officials should be coachable and be prepared to participate in comprehensive training program. The officials will be compensated for their training time.
6. All applying officials should be of impeccable character and able to pass an extensive background check as part of the acceptance to work.
7. All applying officials will be required to provide a statement from their personal physician certifying that the official is in good health and capable of handling the physically expectations that are inherent to their officiating responsibilities.
An interested official should email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and identify themselves as being an official that is interested in working for the NFL should there be a work stoppage. Please take note that at this time we are only gathering names of interested officials. Applying will not guarantee that an officials will be chosen nor does it bind the official to a absolute commitment to work. The application is to just express possible interest should there be a work stoppage. After we have accumulated our list of potential replacements, we will interview and investigate applicants and then select those that we feel will best meet our needs. As I sated earlier, negotiations are ongoing and should the two sides reach an agreement in the near future, there will be no need to hire additional officials. This is a contingency plan to make sure the NFL season will continue on schedule as planned.
Your job as scout is to get this information out to officials in your area and give them the opportunity to decide for themselves if they would like to make application. You are not being asked to persuade officials in any way to accept or not accept. Just provide the information to those that fall into the targeted group and let them decide for themselves.
NFL referees participated in a health and safety seminar which provided a frank discussion about concussions and how officials can help in treatment in the immediate aftermath of head injuries.
The last time we talked about the NFL's other legal battle, this time between the league and the NFL Referees Association, the NFL was searching for replacement referees after the two sides allowed their collective bargaining agreement to pass.
The NFLRA has now shot back at the NFL via the filing of an unfair labor practices charge with the National Relations Board. If this all sounds familiar, it should. The NFLPA filed similar charges against the NFL last year during the lockout.
The NFLRA claims the NFL sent out "inaccurate and misleading financial information" to the referees in two separate letters in the month of June.
"It is clear the league never intended to work toward a fair agreement, even through mediation," NFLRA executive director Mike Arnold said in a press release. "As previously noted, the NFL sent out notices regarding the recruitment of replacement referees while we were actively negotiating under the auspicious [sic] of a jointly agreed upon Federal Mediator. Now during a lockout, the NFL is attempting to bypass NFLRA negotiators by distributing inaccurate and misleading financial information to all the referees. We have urged the Board to investigate this matter quickly and to seek appropriate remedies against the NFL's unlawful bargaining practices."
The NFL and NFLPA eventually got a deal done, despite the filing of an unfair labor practices charge. The NFL and the NFLRA will also have to come to a new agreement, despite the charge, to avoid the use of replacement referees. Working without the NFLRA would be a disaster.
During last year's NFL lockout there was occasionally a media report that would cause a stir, either by saying the lockout was almost over or that things were so bad the lockout would last an entire season. You can say anything when it comes via an anonymous source, you see.
USA Today is jumping into the extreme side of reporting when it comes to the NFL Referees Association against the NFL in their labor dispute. Reporter Jim Corbett writes that the referee lockout is expected to last into the regular season.
A person with knowledge of the negotiations told USA TODAY Sports he expects the labor battle to escalate throughout the summer and that the first couple of weeks of the regular season will be played with "scab" officials. The person requested anonymity because he has not been authorized to speak publicly.
"I will be very surprised if there are not games played with scabs or replacement officials," the person said Tuesday.
It's still very, very early in the process. As we learned with the NFL lockout last year, the 11th hour is all that really matters, and the 11th hour in this particular case may not come until August when the preseason kicks off.
If replacement referees do end up coming to the NFL, it has all the makings of being a disaster.
The NFL and its referees continue to remain at an impasse in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, but the referees never planned to hold a strike vote. That's what the league had reportedly claimed, but the officials' counsel, Mike Allen, denied that report and said:
"In fact the NFLRA's directive to its membership was to prepare for the season and to perform each and every task assigned to them both before and after CBA expiration. This continues to be the position of the NFLRA."
With two months remaining until training camp, negotiations between the two sides -- which have already broken off after just a couple of meetings -- don't appear quite that urgent to either side. In fact, the NFL is already hiring and training replacement referees.
Training camps start in August, but working from now until the first preseason game won't get the replacements up to the same level of the veteran officials. Neither the NFL nor the referees want to see substandard officiating, but until the season draws closer, the urgency to reach a deal won't be there -- just as we saw during the 2011 NFL lockout.
For more news and notes around the league, visit SB Nation NFL.
The NFL is exploring the use of replacement referees after negotiations with the NFL Referees Association fell flat. There's no other way to describe this but as a disaster waiting to happen.
The NFL confirmed on Monday that referees are officially locked out as the two sides find themselves at a stalemate over a new labor agreement. Hiring and training replacement referees is the league's next step. The NFL Players Association released a tersely worded statement disagreeing with the use of replacements, but that is effectively the limit of what the NFLPA can do.
Article 3, Section 1 of the collective bargaining agreement between players and league prohibits any strikes, slowdowns or other job actions on the part of the NFLPA and its membership. The CBA reads:
Section 1. No Strike/Lockout: Except as otherwise provided in Article 47 (Union Security), Section 6, neither the NFLPA nor any of its members will engage in any strike, work stoppage, or other concerted action interfering with the operations of the NFL or any Club for the duration of this Agreement, and no Clubs, either individually or in concert with other Clubs , will engage in any lockout for the duration of this Agreement. Any claim that a party has violated this Section 1 will not be subject to the grievance procedure or the arbitration provisions of this Agreement and the party will have the right to submit such claim directly to the courts.
Some questioned earlier in the day on Monday whether or not the players union would cross the picket line, staying out in support of the unionized referees.
The agreement between the NFL and the referees expired in May. With preseason football still some two months away, the two sides have time to get a deal done.
The NFL has officially locked out the NFL Referees Association as the two sides are negotiating a new CBA and the NFL Players Association has backed the referees. The NFLPA issued a statement on Monday on the NFL's decision to hire and train replacement referees in case they can't come to an agreement with the NFLRA.
The NFL Players Association is concerned about the NFL's decision to lock out professional referees and recruit scabs to serve as referees in NFL games for the 2012 season.
In 2011, the NFL tasked officials with increased responsibilities in protecting player health and safety, and its search for scabs undermines that important function.
Professional athletes require professional referees, and we believe in the NFL Referees Association's trained first responders. The NFLPA will continue to monitor the league's actions in this situation.
Notice the use of the word "scabs" twice.
The NFLPA clearly wouldn't be down with replacement referees. As the process develops, I wouldn't be surprised to hear the NFLPA investigating a grievance against the league since they identify referees as an important part in the player health and safety initiatives.
The NFL and the NFL Referees Association are negotiating the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement and the talks aren't progressing fast enough so the NFL confirmed they're starting the process of hiring and training replacement referees.
The problem is, where exactly do you find replacement referees? Aren't the NFL referees supposed to be the best at what they do? According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the league is seeking replacement referees from anywhere but the BCS, which is the next highest level of competition and probably the best place to find replacements. Absent the BCS, the NFL will have to find referees in smaller conferences, retired college referees and, according to Schefter, even the Arena league.
The NFL is a billion dollar business and something as crucial as officiating needs to be at its highest level. The use of replacement referees has the potential to be a disaster with all kinds of grievances filed. Because of that, I still predict the two sides come to an agreement before the 11th hour, which would be closer to training camp.
The NFL is officially on the look out for replacement officials. The league and its set of officials are negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement, and with the talks currently at an impasse, the NFL announced on Monday that they are starting to prepare replacement officials.
Negotiations with the NFL Referees Association on a new collective bargaining agreement remain unresolved and the previous CBA has expired. Therefore, in order to ensure that there is no disruption to NFL games this season we will proceed immediately with the hiring and training of replacement officials.
Our goal is to maintain the highest quality of officiating for our teams, players, and fans, including proper enforcement of the playing rules and efficient management of our games.
Another negotiating session took place Sunday under the auspices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. We appreciate the efforts of the FMCS and will continue to be available to the NFLRA and the FMCS to negotiate a fair resolution. We have great respect for our officials and in keeping with that view have made a proposal that includes substantial increases in compensation for all game officials.
The previous CBA expired at the end of May. The two sides have been negotiating under the FMCS, which is the same organization that participated in the CBA talks between the players and owners last summer.
It's still too early to be be worrying about this a whole lot because there's plenty of time for the two sides to negotiate a new agreement. Neither the NFL nor the referees union want to use replacement referees so something will likely eventually get done.
The NFL could look into using replacement umpires if a new CBA cannot be reached with the umpires union.
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