Players Concerned About Replacement Officials

Players like Robert Griffith and Corbin Lacina are concerned that replacement refs could affect the game, just like they did Friday night.

Vikings players expressed concern after this week's news that negotiations between the league and the NFL Referees Association had broken down, meaning replacement officials would begin working games.

"I think there are safety concerns," offensive lineman Corbin Lacina said. "It's a high-speed moving game out there. This isn't college ball. It's not anything even close to it. There are certain things with the quarterback, how long a guy is in the grasp or different things in the line. High-low blocks. Defensive guys doing some things, holding or high shots, things like that. It moves fast and that's something you have to be used to and really be trained to handle."

The NFL hired 106 replacement officials last week and will pay them $4,000 each for two games. The league, meanwhile, has offered its officials a 40 percent increase in salary immediately and a doubled salary by 2003. However, Tom Condon, who is representing the officials, is seeking money along the lines of what officials in the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball get.

Unlike officials in the other sports, NFL referees are not full-time employees of the league. "That's not for me to say," said safety Robert Griffith, when asked if officials should be full-time. "But I want them to be happy. That's for sure. Like anybody that goes on the field and throws their body out there, they want to be protected. We are professionals; we want professionals. We don't want somebody that is trying to catch up on their learning, and they have been at college or high school or whatever, to go out there and be judging a game with professionals.

"When there is pass interference — there are bad enough calls as it is — we want it to be pass interference. We don't want it to be marginal. We want those calls made because that's our livelihood. The way I look at it, that's their livelihood, too. They have to make a living at it. Whatever is going to make them happy. I don't know what that settlement is going to be, but we definitely need to protect the players."

Griffith, the Vikings' player representative, does not want to see players start taking cheap shots because they know they can get away with it. "You don't want the game to get out of hand, first of all," he said. "Second of all, it's experience. You get a seven-year veteran who has been playing the same position since he was 7 years old. You are not going to be able to bring in a guy right out of college and expect him to know everything, all the nuances that are going to happen in the game. So, we need that experience."

Lacina agrees experience is key. "You start getting into the regular season and some games could mean playoff berths for some teams," he said. "If calls are screwed up because guys aren't used to the speed of the game, then there are some issues."

Lacina, for one, also thinks it might not be a bad idea to have the officials go full-time. "Maybe there would be a lot less mistakes and a lot less reliance on instant replay if maybe these guys did spend an entire career doing it, as far as offseason and in-season," he said.

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