Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe hasn't backed down from his postgame tweets criticizing the NFL's replacement officials.
The Vikings' third preseason game against the San Diego Chargers provided some high-profile mistakes by the officials that caused Chargers coach Norv Turner to burn two challenges on calls that seemed obvious but were incorrectly ruled. In both instances, the Vikings were initially awarded the football, but both calls were reversed upon a challenge and review.
"It's pretty obvious at this point," Kluwe said this week. "The emperor's new clothes are not there."
Kluwe's reference to the tale about a vain emperor who doesn't want to admit what others can see clearly is an appropriate comparison for those who believe the NFL needs to settle its labor dispute with the NFL Referee's Association. The impasse reportedly could end at a cost of $100,000 per team in order to appease the requests of the Referee's Association.
The two most obvious blown calls in the Vikings-Chargers game both involved turnovers by Minnesota. The first came early in the second quarter when San Diego safety Eric Weddle tackled Minnesota running back Lex Hilliard behind the line of scrimmage. The ball came out while Hilliard was still standing, but the officials ruled he was down by contact. The review clearly showed Hilliard fumbled well before anything but his feet hit the ground, but it cost the Chargers an early challenge.
On the Vikings' next possession, Christian Ponder threw a pass intended for Percy Harvin that was ruled incomplete. However, defensive back DeAndre Presley clearly caught and maintained possession of the ball while diving to the ground untouched. He got up and started to return the interception, but the play was ruled incomplete. Once again, the call was challenged and reversed, giving the Chargers another turnover.
"The NFL really needs to kiss and make up with the refs," Kluwe tweeted after the game. "These replacements are horrible. Frankly, it's kind of embarrassing."
In another post, he wrote: "I'm sure they're trying hard, but they're just not good. So many blown calls tonight in both directions."
Wayne Elliot's crew called 20 penalties in the game and the first half lasted nearly two hours.
The change-of-possession gaffes weren't the only blown calls. When announcing a defensive penalty on the Vikings, offensive tackle Pat Brown, who wasn't on the field, was credited with the infraction. Cornerback Reggie Jones was called for pass interference in the third quarter on a play in which he appeared to have textbook coverage.
Kluwe also talked about a few non-calls that didn't show up in the television copy of the game, including one to long snapper Cullen Loeffler on a second-quarter punt by Kluwe.
"Cullen got dragged down by his facemask on one punt. Just flat-out the guy tackled him," Kluwe said. "… One of our guys got drilled in the back on a punt (while) covering. Fifteen yards away from the play, dude just levels him from the back and then just the other stuff – various holding calls that aren't called and various pass interference calls that aren't really pass interference. Just in total, everything is not great."
Team officials have been instructed not to comment on the replacement officials, and Kluwe said players were given a similar, possibly less stringent warning.
"They've recommended that we just focus on playing and not mention the refs, but at some point it's adversely affecting what people are watching out on the field," Kluwe said. "It makes it a poorer quality product."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Kluwe remains critical of replacement refs
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