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Criticism builds over NFL replacement referees

Kelly Bradley

Rosevelt Colvin on the sidelines with referee John Parry at the New England Patriots at Oakland Raiders NFL game on December 14, 2008.

NFL players and fans are ready for the referees’ lockout to end

For the second time in league history, the NFL has started the regular season with replacement officials. After games filled with cheap shots and terrible calls, both fans and players are ready for the regular officials to return to the field. NFL owners and the union can’t seem to come to an agreement regarding a new contract despite the annual league revenue of $9 billion.

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said Sunday “Get the regular referees in here and let the games play themselves out. We already have controversy enough with the regular refs calling the plays.”

Also speaking out on the issue is Washington Redskins linebacker Chris Wilson. Wilson predicted Monday the discontent with officiating might reach a boiling point soon. According to Wilson, “I think the frustration has grown. If it escalates, you’re talking about fistfights.”

Take for instance the Broncos-Falcons game. There was excessive pushing and shoving with Broncos tackle Orlando Franklin even touching an official—line judge Eric Hoffman. This would normally result in an automatic ejection. However, no officials, including Hoffman himself, threw a flag regarding the contact.

Another controversial call took place Sunday night when a second pass interference penalty was called on Pittsburgh cornerback Ike Taylor. Upon review of the play, there was little if any contact with the New York Jets receiver, causing a rightfully angry Mike Tomlin to throw off his headset.

One ref replacement was even pulled from a game by the NFL. The official had been assigned to the New Orleans-Carolina game but was pulled Sunday morning after it had been revealed on his Facebook page that he was a Saints fan. Oops.

Greg Aiello, NFL spokesman, said in an e-mail to USA TODAY Sports, “Officiating is never perfect. The current officials have made great strides and are performing admirably under unprecedented scrutiny and great pressure.”

However, players, analysts and fans alike seem to disagree. The replacement refs are losing control of the games, much like a substitute teacher in a new classroom.

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