No matter what your record is, one subject Wednesday around the NFL caused plenty of smiles: the return of the regular officials after three regular-season weeks using replacements.
That was definitely the case inside the Washington Redskins‘ locker room.
“I’m excited to finally get our real refs back,” defensive end Stephen Bowen said. “No disrespect to the other refs, but some of the stuff was just kind of crazy. It’s something else that we don’t have to worry about.”
Complaints abound through the first three weeks, about blown calls and issues of safety. Replacements playing such a major role in the end of the Seattle Seahawks-Green Bay Packers “Monday Night Football” game was the culmination of league-wide angst.
Still, defensive lineman Kedric Golston was surprised that the NFL and its Referees Association came to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement so quickly.
“I know that there had been a lot of scrutiny, especially after the ‘Monday Night Football’ game,” Golston said. “I guess the pressure was on.”
It was, especially when President Obama was posting on Twitter that he hoped a deal would get completed soon to bring the regular officials back. He was just echoing what players and fans have been saying for weeks.
“You aways say you don’t miss something until you go without it. Handling these replacement refs the last couple of weeks has kind of been difficult, frustrating at times, just because they lacked experience, weren’t up to par on a lot of the rules,” linebacker and Redskins NFL Players Association rep Lorenzo Alexander said. “And having people back that really understand the flow of the game, how it’s played and have 10, 15 years of doing this job is going to be great as far as allowing players to go out there, play at their highest level and go out there and make plays.”
The Redskins were on the wrong side of the replacement officials getting at least one prominent call wrong in their loss Sunday to the Cincinnati Bengals. Plays like that are where guys hope life is back to normal.
Most importantly, though, there was relief about the officials returning because of the stability they provide after whistles.
“Obviously, the safety of the players is our main issue. Having those referees back out here with all that experience and knowledge of the game, it’s definitely going to help with that,” Alexander said. “I’m glad they were able to get a deal done and, we can go out here and play some clean games.”
Bowen conceded that football’s a violent sport, but keeping control of games is what the regular officials might be able to do best compared to their replacement counterparts.
“We’ve got to accept that things may happen, but just the way the games are regulated now, there’s not going to be a lot of people getting out of control, putting hands on refs and stuff like that, players or coaches,” he said. “I think you’ll see the game come back to form the way it’s supposed to be.”
From the coaching end, Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said communication should be easier.
“It’s a new group to yell at,” he said.