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Possible fines holds back criticism of refs

Nov. 6, 2013
 
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Though the NFL's replacement officials look like a disaster in the making, most players remain wary of criticizing them for fear of getting fined by commissioner Roger Goodell. The league made big news Wednesday when it informed teams that the replacement officials will be working the opening week of the regular season. Here's a copy of the memo sent to the teams, courtesy of Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com. Through three preseason games a few NFL players have criticized the refs, †including Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who in a tweet last weekend called them "horrible" and "embarrassing." Even Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers mildly rebuked them last week, and at least acknowledged the obvious, that they'd missed an obvious pass-interference call on a deep throw to Jordy Nelson in the Packers' game at Cincinnati. But when I approached a few Packers players in the locker room this week, they declined to say much of substance for fear of getting fined. Cornerback Tramon Williams summed up their thinking when asked if the commissioner can fine them for criticizing the officials. "I donít know," Williams said. "Iím not willing to find out though." When asked about a highly questionable holding call against him in the Bengals game, left tackle Marshall Newhouse replied "phantom," and then pantomimed zipping his lips. Williams' strongest comment was only that the throw to Nelson should have been a penalty. "They haven't called anything on me," Williams said of the replacements. "You hear around the league obviously those guys would prefer the regular refs, but who knows? These guys have been in the college game, they have to make adjustments. If we go that route that we have to go with the replacement refs, hopefully they progress week to week." Goodell can fine players, coaches, owners, GMs, etc., for criticizing officials. That's why we haven't heard more, though the tongue biting surely will get more painful starting opening weekend.

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