One of the under the radar stories in the NFL this offseason is the fact that the league has locked out its referees and, at least as of now, plans to hire replacement refs for this season. Veteran NFL ref Mike Carey was on a sports radio station in San Diego and warned that there will be a noticeable difference in quality if the league goes ahead with replacement zebras this year.
"I think unquestionably. You just don't walk out on a field and contend with that speed and size and impact and the complexity of the NFL rules. It's a completely different game."
NFL refs have always been an interesting study. Despite the fact that they have a pretty dramatic effect on a lot of games in any given weekend, they're not actually full time employees of the league and most have other jobs during the week. Mike Carey owns a ski & Snowboard equipment company, Ed Hochuli is a laywer, Walt Coleman operates his family's dairy farm...
Now, the union says they want to be paid just like any other officials.
"From my position, I think that all of the major league officials get paid pretty much the same amount, independent of number of games or how hard they have to prepare or when they work, because all of the seasons are about seven months long," said Carey. "So we believe that we should be - I believe, anyway - that we should be paid on par with all the other officials, especially that we're the wealthiest league there is."
The fact that the NFL plans to hire replacement officials would seem to be a sign that they're really not even close to a deal.
So do we think replacement refs would be a disaster in the making? On one hand, inexperience is always something to worry about, but also we've seen other sports like baseball replace their refs and in some cases they actually improved.
Personally, I doubt that it would make for that giant of an impact considering that we'll all be complaining about the refs either way and the new replay rules have taken most of the really important judgment calls out of the refs hands anyway.... but at the same time, this is a silly thing for the league to be dealing with heading into a season that is supposed to represent a return to normalcy.