Falcons to play Ravens with replacement officials

080612 DALTON: - NFL replacement officials signal the call that a field goal is no good during a combined practice between the Atlanta Falcons and the Tennessee Titans at Coahulla Creek High School in Dalton on Monday, August 6, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

080612 DALTON: - NFL replacement officials signal the call that a field goal is no good during a combined practice between the Atlanta Falcons and the Tennessee Titans at Coahulla Creek High School in Dalton on Monday, August 6, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

FLOWERY BRANCH — The NFL’s exhibition season had an inauspicious start when a replacement official flubbed the coin toss for the Pro Football Hall of Fame game in Canton on Sunday.

The referee said the New Orleans Saints won the toss and deferred. He quickly corrected himself and announced that Arizona had indeed won the toss.

When the Falcons host the Baltimore Ravens at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Georgia Dome in their exhibition opener, replacement officials will call the game because of a labor dispute between the league and the NFL Referees Association.

Some replacement officials worked the Falcons’ Friday Night Lights event, some practices and the controlled practice with the Tennessee Titans in Dalton.

In a recent practice, cornerback Darrin Walls was called for a pass interference on wide receiver Kevin Cone by one of the replacement refs. Safety William Moore didn’t like the call and said, “We’re going to have a long season.”

Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon chimed in, and said, “We want all of these calls explained to us in the meeting tonight in full detail.”

Some players don’t know what to make of the replacement referees.

“Regardless of who is out there calling the game you still have to play,” defensive end Lawrence Sidbury said. “They are going to call the game the way they are going to call it. There is nothing we can do. We just have to line up and play football.”

080612 DALTON: - NFL replacement officials call a combined practice between the Atlanta Falcons and the Tennessee Titans at Coahulla Creek High School in Dalton on Monday, August 6, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

080612 DALTON: - NFL replacement officials call a combined practice between the Atlanta Falcons and the Tennessee Titans at Coahulla Creek High School in Dalton on Monday, August 6, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Veteran center Todd McClure seemed to share Sidbury’s sentiments.

“I don’t think we can concern ourselves with that at all,” McClure said. “We have to go out there and play the game. Whatever the calls are, that’s what they call. It shouldn’t be anything that we worry about as players. We can’t do anything about it.”

The NFLPA, the player’s union, is supporting the referees and believes that player safety will be jeopardized.

Over the past few years, the NFL has placed an emphasis on player safety by expanding penalties and fines for helmet-to-helmet contact, hits on defenseless receivers and roughing the quarterback.

“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,” a NFLPA spokesman said in a statement. “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.”

The league last used replacement officials in 2001, but the labor situation was quickly settled after the Sept. 11 tragedy in New York.

The NFLRA heavily criticized the crew that worked the game in Canton.

Shannon Eastin will be the first woman to referee an NFL game. Photo courtesy NFL.

Shannon Eastin will be the first woman to referee an NFL game. Photo courtesy NFL.

“Several of the NFL Referee Association’s officials who grade for Division-I college conferences did a review of the Hall of Fame game,” said NFLRA counsel Michael Arnold in statement. “Multiple costly errors were evident. Numerous errors in field mechanics, game administration and even the coin toss negatively impacted the quality of the game.”

The NFLRA listed 10 material errors including a non-call on a touchdown, a holding call and a failure to call a touchback.

The two sides are apart on wages and pension benefits. The league has offered a five to 11 percent pay raise over a seven-year deal. The league notes that an official with five years of experience now makes $115,000. In 2018, that same official would make $183,000.

“We think we’ve been responsive on that and hopefully we can get something done,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said.

The NFL has been training officials from the lower ranks of college football, some high officials and even one female, Shannon Eastin, is set to work the Green Bay at San Diego game on Thursday.

The league contends that it’s prepared to play the season with replacement officials if necessary.

“We obviously would like to get an agreement with our officials,” Goodell said recently on the NFL Network’s NFLAM show. “We have a great deal of respect for them and we’d like to get that done, but we have differences, not only economic differences but differences of how we continue to improve NFL officiating.”

The two sides reached an impasse back in May and the league decided to start training replacement officials, who are called scabs by hard-core union supporters. The league locked out the officials on June 3.

Goodell recently spent some time with the replacements.

“They’re excited and they’re working hard to make sure that they’re ready for the season and we’re going to do everything to make sure they’re prepared and ready to go,” Goodell said.

Mike Pereira, Fox television’s NFL rules analyst and former NFL official, believes the integrity of the game will be compromised with the replacement referees.

He was head of the officiating in 2001 when the NFL used replacement officials in Week 1 before an agreement was reached.

“The integrity of the game will be compromised when you put people out on the field who have no idea of the timing, rules or management of the game or player safety,” Pereira said in a recent radio interview. “Much like not seeing the best players, you won’t be seeing the best officiating. You’re going to have people that have never officiated player safety rules at this level before and that will lead to mistakes.”

Pereira notes that the current group of 120 union referees has more than 1,400 years of NFL officiating experience and that the replacement will have zero years of NFL experience.

“They need to get this settled,” Pereira said.

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–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog

Get instant updates on Twitter at AJCFalcons and you can join the Facebook Fan page at AJC Falcons.

23 comments Add your comment

SeenThis B4

August 8th, 2012
3:09 pm

hiramsaint

August 8th, 2012
3:20 pm

i that a pre-emptive excuse for a loss ?

SeenThis B4

August 8th, 2012
3:21 pm

$115,000 a year, to be on the field for 4 hours or so, 17 weeks a year. Must be nice. And they want a bigger pension! (If they got the calls right in the first place, maybe, but these bozos need instant replay for almost every call!)

Sorry, gotta side with the NFL and that S.O.B. commissioner on this one.

hiramsaint

August 8th, 2012
3:25 pm

next season the failclowns will be playing with a re-placement h.c. and qb !

Another Rick

August 8th, 2012
3:33 pm

Hiram is this not about the refs? Man you are to tired with the Falcon bashing! Gets old! I want to see how these officials respond, going to be alot of controversy this year!

hiramsaint

August 8th, 2012
3:36 pm

idon’t know if you watched the saints cards game but there was alot of confusion starting at the coin toss and moving forward.

hiramsaint

August 8th, 2012
3:36 pm

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Mike Franklin

August 8th, 2012
6:50 pm

NOTE: I don’t give a flying rat’s tail about refs… they are all blind anyway. I just want to see my team play…

On the side…
If the NFL Network expects me to buy a bundle of 7 trash channels just to get them? They can kiss my fat football butt, too.

D. Orlando Ledbetter

August 8th, 2012
7:00 pm

Mike Franklin – Speak your mind. Speak your mind!

[...] to Original Content From Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog): read more Related Articles Share About Author [...]

Mike Franklin

August 8th, 2012
9:06 pm

Another example of greed vs. greed where the game and the fans pay the ultimate cost.

to real

August 9th, 2012
12:34 am

We cant have replacment refs cuz tha 1st time a team loose a game on a BS call made by dees dam fake refs things are going to get out of control dees guys blow calls anyway but we dont need it any worst get a dam deal done soon or u can bet there will be sum messed up calls dat will cost teams games even more normal

Byrdz Eye

August 9th, 2012
4:07 am

Don’t you just LOVE how the NFLPA support the Refs and believe that by using Scabs that players’ safety may be jeopardized but don’t feel that BOUNTIES on other players sends the wrong message.

Wow… what a bunch of morons!

redcoat

August 9th, 2012
5:06 am

@byrdz…..same thoughts for me…..the players union could review games and fine their on members regardless of ref calls if they are really serious.

PlanB

August 9th, 2012
6:26 am

Got to agree with Seen. These guys pick up an extra $115,000 a year for a few hours work on Sunday and they want more for doing an extremely bad job. If we didn’t have instant replay, most fans would be furious with calls that could not be overturned. Many of those calls that are overturned cost the head coach one of his challenges. It cost the coach for the refs mistake. They say it doesn’t take a timeout away but the number of challenges has a limit and that counts as one. Anyway, each Sunday, I see at least one ref that I think should be fired even when the call goes my way. Train a new bunch and do as Reagan did with the air traffic controllers. Let the old refs appreciate a part time job of $115,000 per year or hit the road. Bad calls will be there no matter which group you use. Bad feelings about ref calls for a long time.

PlanB

August 9th, 2012
6:34 am

Good point Byrdz and redcoat. Sometimes I see a def lineman stop short of the QB but barely touches the QB’s helmet with his fingers. Refs call a roughing penalty but other times QB gets a hard hit to the head and no call. This gets old.
One more point: I’m happy to see the female ref. I think with this job, she will be able to afford her contraception and not have the govt pay for it as Obama thinks it should be.

FALCLOWN players = Refs = Scrubs

August 9th, 2012
7:11 am

Saints troll > FALCLOWN fans

FALCLOWN players = Refs = Scrubs

August 9th, 2012
7:11 am

Nite Owl

August 9th, 2012
5:43 pm

Come on, it’s 2012. Where are the robot refs and flying cars they promised us? What a ripoff.

I enjoyed the “replacement HC” comment from the Saints fan. Too much irony. I’ll just let that one sit there.

Ravens : The Latest Fuzz

August 9th, 2012
10:01 pm

[...] Falcons to play Ravens with replacement officials – Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

[...] the league and the NFL Referees Association, you will certainly hear about it Thursday night. Replacement officials will be calling the shots in the Falcons first preseason game, a thought that surely seems daunting [...]

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