Flags by replacements, regular refs about the same
NEW YORK (AP)
The numbers say there isn't much difference in the NFL with replacement
officials. Comments from players and coaches say otherwise.
As fan outrage grows over calls and non-calls, delays in doling out
penalties and indecision by the replacements, statistics show strong
similarities between the number of flags thrown this year by the
temporary crews and last year by the guys who currently are locked out.
The NFL knows things are far from perfect - something that could have
been predicted with officials whose recent experience typically was not
even at the highest college levels. But things are never perfect with
the regulars, either, and the league shows no sign of being forced back
to the negotiating table because of the criticism.
''We are going to continue to do everything possible to raise the level
of performance of the current officials'' through training tapes,
conference calls and meetings, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Wednesday.
The league does that with the regular officials, too.
One point of emphasis this week will be game control and making sure
players are penalized for unnecessary actions ranging from roughness
penalties to unsportsmanlike conduct.
Game control and simple professionalism by the officials have become
key issues this week after complaints from a number of players.
''There's no doubt the integrity of the game has been compromised not
having the regular officials out there,'' Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said. ''We've got to get that taken care of.''
Added Rams coach Jeff Fisher: ''We just all hope, and I'm speaking on
behalf of all 31 other head coaches, we hope they get something done.
We're trusting that they will.''
The Eagles' LeSean McCoy was stunned when one of the replacements told
the All-Pro running back he was on the official's fantasy football
team. The league prohibits its game officials from playing fantasy
''I'll be honest,'' McCoy said, ''they are like fans.''
What the fans seem most annoyed with is the lack of pace to games, most
notably Monday night's win by the Falcons over the Broncos that dragged
on past midnight. That's about the only area where, statistically, the
replacements have been far inferior.
Average time of game is about six minutes longer in 2012 than in 2011,
and with only one overtime game in The Opening two weeks - same as last
year - extra periods can't be blamed. More likely, the time it takes to
properly administrate penalties throughout the game is the cause.
The league has a supervisor in the press box and an alternate official
on the sideline to help in that area. But it's been a struggle.
''It's a combination of everything,'' said Fisher, who has served on
the NFL's competition committee for most of his coaching career. ''Most
of them are not (from) Division I. They're all doing the best they can
but it's a combination of everything: it's the speed, it's the
differences in rules. We just hope they're able to put things together
as soon as they can.''
The perception seems to be flags are flying indiscriminately. And yet:
- The average number of penalties per game is down from 15.2 to 14.7.
- On player safety calls, such as roughing the passer; unnecessary
roughness, including hitting defenseless players; and, face-mask or
horse-collar violations, the calls are nearly even: 75 this year, 74
- Instant replay reviews are way up, an increase of 16. But the
percentage of reversals is way down: 23 this year out of 62 as opposed
to 21 of 46 in 2011.
- Defensive pass interference and illegal contact penalties are up, but
only from 48 to 51, surprising because of the hubbub raised on the
airwaves about the lack of such calls.
Offensive players believe the replacements are concentrating on pass
interference penalties against them, not against defensive backs. The
numbers: six such calls this season to nine through two weeks last year.
''It's frustrating because I think there was no offensive pass
interferences called the whole preseason, so that's kind of what
they've been emphasizing,'' said Vikings receiver Percy Harvin, who
believes he was victimized by ''a terrible call'' of offensive
interference in a loss Sunday at Indianapolis. ''It wasn't just our
game but a lot of offensive pass interferences called. It just seemed
like they were gunning for the offensive pass interferences this week.
''It's frustrating not knowing exactly what they are looking at, but we
can't worry about that. We have to adjust to the game and be ready to
go from there.''
Where does the officiating situation go from here? No negotiations with
the NFL Referees Association are planned, and the NFL has drawn up a
schedule to use the replacements for five weeks, if necessary.
That bothers Giants defensive end Justin Tuck.
''I am not necessarily mad at the replacement officials,'' Tuck said.
''I am more upset with the NFL for not handling this and taking care of
this in due time.''
Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi in Philadelphia contributed to this