And now they might hire replacement referees? That's what the league said it will do now that negotiations with the NFL Referees Association have broken down.
That's not to say that the NFL is at fault in these negotiations. Maybe it's not. There's also an excellent chance that -- with no games for two months -- a deal will be struck, though in 2001 the NFL did use scab officials in a similar situation, lasting one game into the regular season.
However, the league is talking about hiring retired college officials or officials on track for eventually joining the NFL. It takes rookie players a while to adapt to the speed of the game. Now it would be asking an entirely new officiating crew to do the same while working with new partners.
If the league is serious about protecting its players, it can't let this happen.
- John Keim