You may not even be aware of this because so little attention is being paid to it, but there is an NFL referee lockout going on. The ongoing labor dispute between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association has made little progress, and the league is preparing to move on this season without the regular officials.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has given his recent thoughts on the labor issues with the NFLRA.
“We had discussions recently,” Goodell said. “Hopefully, we’ll have more in the near future. But as you can see we’re preparing for the season and we will have officials on the field. We hope our officials from last season will be on the field this season.”
Goodell also spoke on the problem of improving the officiating, and how that ties in to the negotiations.
“We’re always focused on trying to improve the officiating and that’s one of the issues that is in the discussions is how do we continue to improve the officiating,” he added. “Make it better. We proposed an idea where we could have another 21 officials. We’d be able to train them and have a deeper pool of officials. We’d be able to potentially move them in and out. That’s something we’re discussing with the officials.”
Goodell does not feel that player safety is at risk if they end up using replacement refs, because the replacements have been in training for the past two months. The replacements will include “elite” retired college officials, officials from smaller college conferences and Arena Football League referees.
There are reports that nine retired officials, including Red Cashen, Ron Botchan and Jerry Markbreit, have refused to help train the replacement officials
All indications are that this dispute won’t be settled before the preseason starts next week, and it could last into the regular season.
Do players seem concerned? Apparently not.
“These guys have already started being trained,” said new Green Bay Packers center Jeff Saturday, who was part of the union team during the player lockout in 2011. “It’s not like these guys are off the street and haven’t reffed any games before. They have professional or college experience.”
Either way, replacement referees in a league already under criticism for officiating is only going to make a bad situation worse, and I’m not sure that an NFL season would be the same without Ed Hochuli, his “guns”, and his rambling dissertations.