With only two weeks until the season opener, the lockout of NFL referees continues. Since June 3rd, the referees’ union has been negotiating with the NFL and they haven’t gotten much closer to a deal since then.

The NFL wants to turn most of the current officials from part-time to full-time employees. The league also wants to add twenty-one more officials to the roster to reduce the stress and travel demands. The problem is that the salary increase that the NFL is proposing is only 2.8% - not worth the officials giving up their other jobs. There is also the issue of pensions which the league wants to turn into 401k’s instead.

Since the beginning of the pre-season we have seen the progression of terrible calls from the replacement referees. These same referees are scheduled to take charge starting week one of the NFL season if the lockout out doesn’t end. All we can do as fans is hope that it ends, because otherwise we might be in for the most injuries and most ejections in NFL history.

For as much effort commissioner Roger Goodell has put into protecting the players, it is astounding that this lockout hasn’t been resolved. After suspending and fining players for late hits and excessive contact, you would think the last thing he would want is inexperienced referees who have proven that they miss those kinds of calls. However, the lockout continues and the NFL plans to begin the season with the replacement referees.

As the NFL season opener on September 5th comes closer and the replacement officials continue their mistakes, there’s a chance that the NFL will cave in to the demands of the officials. That is exactly what the referees are waiting for. We have seen missed calls and penalties that have altered the results of games, but never have we seen so many gaffes in a short two week span.

The mistakes began at the coin toss when a replacement referee announced the Saints had won the toss when the Cardinals actually won it. Another replacement referee referred to the Atlanta Falcons as the Arizona Cardinals. Even a passionate football fan without any refereeing experience could handle those simple tasks.

The slip-ups continued as the New York Giants’ punt returner was called for holding. Something I don’t think has ever been called in NFL history. So, if nothing is done about the referee situation at least they’re making history.

However, the scary part is that there have been multiple late hits on quarterbacks that haven’t been called. For the league who has dedicated their time to protecting the players, it seems like common sense to make some concessions to the officials and pay a little extra to shelter the players.

It seems like the NFL is missing the big picture. Fans pay for tickets and NFL gear because they love their teams. They love their teams because of the players. If star players suffer season ending injuries or worse, fans will stop coming to the games and the money will stop flowing. The NFL should settle their dispute with the referees quickly and fairly, before a major injury occurs.

Looking forward, the regular season brings a much higher level of pressure to the referees and a much quicker tempo to keep up with compared to the pre-season. Thus far, the replacement referees have struggled in games with no importance and not a significant amount of fans. So, what happens when the lights are on and 75,000 fans are screaming?

The fact is, the NFL becomes a much more dangerous place with these replacement referees and the outcome of games can be determined by one little mistake. Is it really worth not paying a little extra money to the real referees to maintain the safety of the game? Especially when the league is already facing thousands of lawsuits from former players on health issues. One thing is clear, unless the NFL gets the regular referees back out on the field quickly, they could be in for one of the longest and most painful seasons in history.

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