Charles Woodson bashes NFL’s replacement refs
By Jarrett Bell, USA Today
~GREEN BAY, Wis. — Add Charles Woodson to a growing chorus expressing concern with the prospect of opening the season with replacement officials.
The Green Bay Packers safety told USA TODAY Sports that during three preseason contests he hasn’t been convinced the replacements can handle the speed of the NFL game, and he expects it will be reflected with missed calls during the regular season if the league doesn’t settle its labor dispute with locked-out officials.
“They haven’t been very good,” said Woodson, a 15-year veteran. “That’s the honest opinion. Before preseason started, I think you’re optimistic. But it’s almost like a young guy coming into the NFL. The game goes too fast for them.
“Now, could they go through a season and get better? Sure. But there’s going to be a lot of bad officiating going on until they catch up to the speed of the game.”
Asked to project how games will be affected, Woodson said: “There will be some things you normally wouldn’t get away with. It’s not that you’d be trying to get away with them, but you will because the official didn’t see it or he didn’t know to make the call. We need the (regular officials) back.”
NFL officials insist they have seen improvement with replacement officials during each week of the preseason, and Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league is preparing to start the regular season without the locked-out crews.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, “It’s a work in progress.”
Nonetheless, the Packers’ preseason victory at Cincinnati on Thursday night kicked off another weekend of intense scrutiny of the replacements — and more apparent gaffes that sparked criticism:
* Bengals coach Marvin Lewis questioned whether a replacement official knew the rule for protecting a defenseless receiver in flagging safety Taylor Mays for a hit against Packers tight end Tom Crabtree.
* Friday night, officials erred in ordering an untimed down the end of the first quarter after Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman was penalized on the final play of the quarter in a game at the New York Giants.
* The Minnesota Vikings’ Chris Kluwe, following Friday night’s preseason game against the San Diego Chargers, tweeted that the NFL should “kiss and make up” with the locked-out officials.
“Frankly,” Kluwe tweeted, “it’s kind of embarrassing.”
In Woodson’s view, at least two cases on Thursday night raised questions. He said officials missed a pass interference call by a Bengals defender against receiver Jordy Nelson. The defender didn’t turn his head while making contact, Woodson said.
Woodson also maintained that an official demonstrated a lack of confidence in making a holding call after a lengthy delay.
“I think all of us were about to come off the sideline and throw the flag for him,” Woodson said. “You’ve got to be confident in what you do.”
Is Woodson nit-picking with his criticism? He acknowledged the locked-out officials had their share of calls questioned, too.
“Whether you liked their calls or didn’t agree with their calls, you always knew that they’re good at what they do,” he said.