Roger Goodell: NFL ready to use replacement refs when season opens

The NFL isn’t going to blink in its staredown with locked-out officials.

At least that’s the way it sounds from Commissioner Roger Goodell, who answered questions on the labor meltdown during a fantasy-football event in Times Square on Thursday.

Goodell has consistently held his line on the issue, saying the league will stick to its plan of using replacement officials in the regular season -- as it did for Week 1 of the 2001 season before the 9/11 terrorist attacks put the squabble in perspective and a deal was quickly struck.

“These officials have been trained,” Goodell said of the replacements. “We have been working with them. We think they’ll do a very credible job.”


The stand-ins have made their share of mistakes in the exhibition games, however, mistakes that would generate much more vitriol if they happened when games actually count.

“We have controversial calls. Officiating is an imperfect science,” Goodell said. “They’re not going to be correct all the time, but we have systems in place to try to help. We have instant replay, as an example, to try to help correct those mistakes. … It’s like any game. We get calls every Monday from fans, from coaches, from teams upset about a particular call. That happens. And it will happen going forward regardless of who’s on the field.”

That said, there could be a lot more mistakes as the speed on the field increases and the pressure mounts. The NFL is asking that the replacement officials show up to game sites 3 1/2 hours before kickoff -- an hour earlier than officials typically arrive -- so they can receive extra training from supervisors on such rudimentary aspects such as where to stand and how to conduct the coin toss. Some officials are wearing ear pieces that connect them to an eye in the sky -- another official watching from the press box -- to assist them in making calls.

The NFL has instructed teams and coaches not to criticize the replacements. When the regular season starts, it will be a lot harder to muzzle a player or coach who feels wronged.


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