Bad News About NFL Ref Lockout
By Joe Platania
The explosion in media exposure and popularity for the NFL has led to fans becoming knowledgeable about playbooks, contracts and, if you can believe it, game officials.
Fans now have just as many opinions, and are just as familiar with, people such as Ed Hochuli, Ron Winter and Walt Coleman as they do about Chad Johnson, Tony Romo and Joe Flacco.
But it's looking more and more likely that the usual officiating crews won't be in place when the regular season begins in September.
Sources and published reports have indicated that the league and the locked-out NFL Referees Association are so far apart that the regular officials may not return to work until at least Week Three, the same week the Ravens will host the New England Patriots for a crucial AFC game at M&T Bank Stadium.
The main issues are twofold: making the officials full-time league employees -- even though most of them already have jobs with which they are unwilling to part -- and hiring three extra seven-man crews to give the regulars a bit more rest during the season.
So far, Ravens head coach John Harbaugh has not expressed any outward concern about the situation, maintaining his focus on building his own roster.
But during his team's 31-17 preseason-opening win at Atlanta last Thursday night, he expressed disappointment with some of the officials' calls and line-of-scrimmage spots.
For the immediate future, the league has reportedly assigned replacement crews for the next two rounds of games, taking them into the crucial third week of the preseason, a time when most teams play their starters into the third quarter and most often simulate regular-season game conditions.
It looks as though this situation is going to get uglier than the 2001 stalemate between the league and its officials.
That year, the league used replacement officials through the preseason and Week One of the regular campaign, including the Chicago-Baltimore opener at M&T Bank Stadium.
But since the second week of games was delayed because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, there was extra time for the dispute to be settled before the league got back on the field two weeks later.
Posted Aug. 14, 2012