It comes as no surprise that NFL players – the last group to complete a labor battle with the owners – would take the side of the officials in the league’s latest show down.
The NFL is actively working to hire replacement officials after negotiations with the current officials have broken down, a process that’s led to some rhetoric being slung from both sides.
“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,” the NFLPA said in a released statement.”
The NFLPA connects the officials to safety for the players in taking a side on the matter.
“In 2011, the NFL tasked officials with increased responsibilities in protecting player health and safety, and its search for scabs undermines that important function,” the statement continued.
“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.”
From our vantage point, the NFL cannot afford to have replacement officials working in Week 1. Consider the fallout if a blown call – not a controversial call – plays a role in the outcome of even one game. It could happen to any officiating crew in any week. But if it happens to a replacement officiating crew, the fallout will be terrible for the NFL. You better believe that is what the officials are banking on too.
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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune