Mark Baltz is heading into his 24th season as an NFL head linesman — or at least he will be, if the league and the NFL Referees’ Association can come to terms on a new contract. Baltz says that with his two dozen years of experience, he knows a badly officiated game when he sees one. And he saw one when he watched Sunday’s Rams-Colts preseason game.
Baltz (pictured getting an earful from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll) says he was alarmed by the mistakes he saw from the crew that worked Sunday’s game.
“You can see they’re uneasy, late to react,” Baltz told the Indianapolis Star. “The head linesman is supposed to flow on pass plays when the quarterback drops back. The head linesman [Sunday] just stood there like a statue and never moved.”
Baltz said he saw an ugly series of mistakes before one play when the officials didn’t properly communicate with each other and didn’t seem to know what to call.
“They got together to decide whether it was a false start or a neutral-zone infraction, whether the guy got in the zone or not,” Baltz said. “They’re having this conference and, all of a sudden, here comes a flag from the back judge and he’s got delay of game. That was terrible.”
The NFL says it’s willing to start the season without the regular officials, but Baltz seems to doubt that.
“I don’t see that the players and owners will put up with this much longer,” Baltz said. “The integrity of the league, I think, is at stake. . . . They’ve got the greatest game going in professional sports. I just can’t understand why they’re tinkering with this, over some little economic problems.”
Those “little economic problems” may soon turn into much bigger public relations problems for the NFL if a mistake from a replacement ref costs a team a game.