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Growing heat on replacement refs includes Rodgers, Lewis

Nov. 6, 2013
 
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Some NFL coaches and players are subtly or not so subtly breaking from the NFL mandate to not criticize the league’s replacement officials, including Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis after their teams’ preseason matchup Thursday night. The replacement refs had a rough game. They called at least two phantom holding penalties – one on Packers left tackle Marshall Newhouse, another on guard Greg Van Roten – and a third questionable hold on Bengals tackle Anthony Collins. Also, they missed a seemingly blatant pass-interference call on a deep throw from Rodgers to Jordy Nelson, where a defensive back ran into Nelson without turning back to look for the ball. And they called a personal foul on Bengals’ safety Taylor Mays for what appeared to be a textbook shoulder-to-shoulder hit on tight end Tom Crabtree. After the game, Rodgers couched his criticism of the non-call in diplomatic language. “That was pass interference,” Rodgers said. “I think that what you’re seeing, at least from my perspective the first three weeks, is maybe a little bit of a reluctance (by the replacement officials) to throw the flags at times. It seems that there’s been less penalties thrown. I know they’re doing as good a job as they possibly can. I think they’re learning, so if we have to go with the replacement officials, I think you’re going to see them improve in their overall game management, just from learning on the fly. They got thrown into the situation and it’s a different game than college, and I’m sure they’ll be able to pick it up quickly.” Lewis similarly provided modest criticism to the penalty on Mays. NFL rules have been enhanced in recent years to protect defenseless receivers by prohibiting defenders from launching at them, hitting them with the helmet, or striking them in the head and neck area. Mays did none of the three. “It was exactly shoulder-to-shoulder,” he said. “Unfortunately, the guy that made the call’s explanation was not correct.” Lewis later said: “They are getting better. Hopefully, it will get closer and closer to what we need. (the officials’) His understanding was that the player was a defenseless receiver. He was, but you are allowed to hit a defenseless receiver shoulder-to-shoulder. There is no such thing as a defenseless player unless he is hit in the head with your head. It was a misinterpretation of the rule. I know they are working hard. The league is working hard to get this stuff corrected. They are working overtime on it actually. It’ll get better and better.” The NFL has locked out its officials as the sides try to negotiate a new contract. But with major-conference college officials prohibited by their leagues from working as lockout refs, it’s clear the errors by the replacement refs are becoming an escalating issue as the regular season approaches.

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