Falcons Coach Mike Smith and receiver Roddy White question a call during… (Curtis Compton / McClatchy-Tribune )
While the NFL's use of replacement officials might be having a negative impact on the flow and outcomes of the games, it's definitely taking a toll on the players, whose union sent an open letter to all 32 team owners calling for the end of the lockout of regular officials.
The letter, posted Sunday on the NFL Players' Assn. website and signed by numerous current and former star players, says that a safe working environment no longer exists with the replacement officials. The union finds it odd that Commissioner Roger Goodell takes punitive action in the name of the players' health and safety yet puts those same players at a disadvantage by locking out highly trained officials.
"The decision to lock out officials with more than 1,500 years of collective NFL experience has led to a deterioration of order, safety and integrity," the letter stated. "This affirmative decision has not only resulted in poor calls, missed calls and bad game management, but the combination of those deficiencies will only continue to jeopardize player health and safety and the integrity of the game that has taken decades to build.
"As players, we see this game as more than the 'product' you reference at times. You cannot simply switch to a group of cheaper officials and fulfill your legal, moral, and duty obligations to us and our fans. You need to end the lockout and bring back the officials immediately."
The NFL locked out the officials when their contract expired in June. The replacement officials have come from the lower levels of college as well as other lesser pro leagues.
"The removal of the veteran officials from regular-season games left a group of your replacements who have proved to be incapable of keeping pace with the speed of the game," the union's letter said. "Coaches and players have complained of numerous errors and failures including: erratic and missed calls on egregious holds and hits, increased skirmishes between players and confusion about game rules. Many replacements have lost control of games due to inexperience and unfamiliarity with players and rules."
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