With the NFL and its officials at a standstill in negotiations on a new contract, and with the league poised to begin the preseason using replacement officials, Commissioner Roger Goodell doesn’t seem particularly concerned about the matter.
“We had discussions recently,” Goodell said at a visit to Packers camp, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Hopefully, we’ll have more in the near future. But as you can see we’re preparing for the season and we will [have] officials on the field. We hope our officials from last season will be on the field this season.”
At the moment, it doesn’t appear that they will be the same officials from last season. Instead, the NFL is training a couple hundred replacement officials, most of whom have no experience at the NFL level or even at the highest levels of college football. Goodell acknowledged the concerns about player safety if novice officials aren’t properly enforcing the rules designed to keep players safe, but he said that wasn’t a problem the last time the NFL used replacements.
“That’s why we’ve been training them for the last two months,” he said. “We had this experience in 2002 [editor's note: It was actually 2001] and the big impact in 2002 was you didn’t get the holding calls and some of the other calls. Safety is such a focus for us. They’ve been training on that basis.”
Goodell said the proposal the NFL has made to the officials is fair. The officials don’t agree. Which means there’s a good chance those replacement officials will still be in place when the games start to count for real.