As the labor dispute between the NFL and National Football League Referees Association continues to progress into the preseason, many inexperienced replacement referees have been exposed while officiating their first professional contests. This was evident on Friday night in Jacksonville, when several missed calls clearly detracted from the integrity of the game. It started when a blatant pass interference on New York Giants wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan went unnoticed, and continued as the game progressed.
On Sunday, wide receiver Victor Cruz took a public stance on the issue. When asked if he was concerned about the effect replacement officials would have on the game, he didn't why away from his feelings on the matter.
“We want to make sure we’re getting the best calls and we’re getting the best referees that we can possibly get on each and every game,’’ Cruz said. “I actually heard one of the refs, he’d only reffed glorified high school games, which I don’t even know what that means, essentially. But I just want to make sure we’re getting the best guys out there … to referee these games and making sure that they have the best interest of the players at heart and they know what they’re doing out there because there were a few instances where there were some iffy calls made and there were some things that were out there."
Cruz is right in that it's important to get the best referees available to officiate the games played by the best players in the world. While the replacement officials are obviously experienced at the various levels in which they came from, nothing can imitate NFL game speed. This has led, and will continue to lead, to numerous blown calls on relatively routine plays.
One particular play that Cruz took exception to was the holding call against Jayron Hosley, who appeared to be too busy returning a punt on the play to have possibly been holding anyone. Victor thought this was the worst call of the game.
“Like they called a holding call on the returner when he was returning a punt. That was probably the most mind-boggling one to me. We just want to make sure we get the refs back out there and out there making the right calls." Cruz said.
While it's not uncommon for even regular officials to get a wrong number on a call or two throughout the course of a game, the fact of the matter is that this was just one mishap in a long line of potentially serious mistakes.
Unfortunately, the NFL knows that it will not lose one single viewer as a result of replacement officials. So as long as the NFLRA fails to realize their lack of leverage, there is no end in sight in terms of getting the right referees back on the field. For the fan, this means just having to deal with sub-par officiating as the preseason continues to progress.
Photo Credit: Mike Gannon
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