The annual rite of officials rolling through training camps has commenced, even without the real refs.
And as the replacements disperse through a number of camps, there’s a growing sense they’re in over their heads.
Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune quoted a veteran scout who had seen the replacements as saying they were in “awe” and thought they’d “call only what is obvious.”
And offensive linemen in particular know what that means, since they operate in the closest quarters that don’t allow room to reflect.
“They’ve been around the game,” Bears center Roberto Garza said. “They know what they’re doing. But we might be able to get away with more. That would be good for us.”
The league has made efforts to fill in; working for two months to find, assemble and train crews. And with the exhibition season starting Sunday, it’s increasingly likely the replacements will work some games.
That means cast-offs from lower levels of college football, retired officials and others not involved in major college football will be working the highest level of the game.
“These guys do that for a living so they know what they are doing,” Garza said, though that point’s very much up for debate. “I don’t know that they can affect the game that much. It’s up to us to go out and play anyway. Obviously, you want the guys that have been around the game to go out there and officiate our game. . . .
“You know the crews that will let you play and the guys that don’t put up with anything. That’s kind of nice to know what crew is working and what you’re going to be able to get away with.”
But if the replacements take the field, no one has any idea what to expect, or whether the hastily trained subs will be able to enforce the safety measures the league holds so dear.