Replacement NFL officials are making their way to training camps.
It’s an annual exercise the regular officials did each summer with a primary goal being to educate the coaches and players on rule changes or elements that will be emphasized during the coming season.
But one longtime scout said the officials at the camp he’s at are “very tentative and seemed in awe.” The league has assembled a crew of replacement officials largely from the lower ranks of college football as well as the indoor professional leagues. They haven’t been at the NFL level previously.
The scout fears if these officials work games it will take serious infractions to get them to throw flags. He predicts holding galore in the trenches as veterans will get away with everything they can.
Commissioner Roger Goodell, at least publicly, isn’t overly concerned with the matter right now.
“We’re confident they can do the job,” Goodell said of the replacements, noting they have been receiving training for two months.
Goodell shifted talk of replacements to discussing a goal to improve the way the games are called.
“But we want to overall improve officiating, and we’ve got some ideas on how to do that,” he said during a visit to Chicago Bears camp in Bourbonnais, Ill. “Clearly there are economic differences. We’re thinking of expanding rosters from 121 to 142, to bring in three more crews that we can use to help develop younger officials and improve the quality of it and maybe be able to move them in and out. So there are some changes that we would like to make. We’re not going to agree to anything until we get those and the economic issues resolved.”
With any luck, the regular referees and officials will be back before the beginning of the regular season.
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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune