As the NFL continues to dig in for the long haul with its locked-out officials, the league has eliminated a potential source of preferential treatment by the replacements.
Albert Breer of NFL Network reports that the league has now prohibited the replacement officials from working for individual teams during midweek practices.
The locked-out officials already were prevented from working for specific teams, given that receiving money from a team (and hoping to continue to do so) could influence the official during a game involving said team. At a minimum, it creates the appearance of potential impropriety. (Training-camp work by the officials is compensated by the league, not by the teams.)
Some of the replacements hired by the league apparently have in past years provided in-season freelance services for the individual teams. That practice will now end.
At least until the lockout ends.
The new rule is set forth in a memo from the league to the replacement officials. The memo contains a variety of other specific tips, including one that became an issue in the Sunday night game between the Steelers and Broncos: “For a Coach’s Challenge to be initiated, the red flag must be on the ground, and flag must be seen by one of the seven on-field officials before the snap.”
There were other errors last week, but the league continues to have the best response to any criticism of the replacement officials: The locked-out officials have made the same mistakes. So unless and until the replacements find a new and dramatic way to screw things up, the locked-out officials will have no leverage.
Even then, the NFL likely will continue to circle the wagons, applying more and more pressure to men whose wives are surely wondering: (1) where the checks are; and (2) why they now have to put up with having these guys around all weekend.