News Column

Sanity Restored to NFL

Sept. 27, 2012

Jarrett Bell

It took a month too long, but NFL order has been restored.

It's about time.

With the overtime sessions to strike a labor deal Wednesday that brings back the 121 officials locked out since June, pro football's season resumes without a complete asterisk.


This won't reverse that ridiculous outcome in Seattle on Monday night, when the Green Bay Packers were robbed of a victory by replacement officials -- with an assist from the non-replacement league supervisor at the game -- who ruled an apparent game-sealing interception as a game-winning touchdown.

But at least the Packers have 13 games with the pro officials to make amends.

And the bogus call in Seattle turned out to be a good thing in another sense: It fueled the intense, widespread backlash that provided the impetus for finalizing a deal.

Kicked to the curb is the collection of undoubtedly well-meaning replacements who largely proved to be in way over their heads in jumping to the NFL from Division III and high school levels and even the Lingerie Football League.


The regular officials will be on the field, beginning tonight in Baltimore.

Regardless of how the swing factors in the negotiations were settled, big winners are clearly identified all over the place. Players win. Coaches win. NFL owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell win. Competition wins.

Most important, fans who have supported the USA's most popular sport to the point that the NFL will generate more than $9.5 billion this year (and counting) win.

This is one major step for restoring integrity.

Whew. One of the most sordid chapters in the league's 93-year history is over. It was three-plus regular-season weeks (plus a tension-filled preseason) of faux officiating that not only stained the NFL's product and its well-honed image but also risked the safety and ultimate livelihood of the players.

The real officials -- from recognizable referees Ed Hochuli and Mike Carey to unknown side judges such as Jimmy DeBell and Keith Parham -- have never been loved like this.

But Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Ronde Barber spoke the truth when he said: "This is the best it will be for the real refs. Their first week, they'll mess up a call and it'll be, 'They had too much downtime.'"

Without the best officials -- who advanced to the NFL level through exceptional performance, solid training, proven experience and rigorous vetting -- the games too often became comedies of errors.

On a widespread level, the substandard officiating was painted in inconsistency.

In some cases, obvious calls from flagrant blows to the head of quarterbacks and other defenseless players to excessive contact downfield were missed.

So many subtle calls, such as infractions occurring on the line, were missed, too.

Then the inconsistency was compounded by absurdity. Sometimes, replacement officials awarded extra yards by erroneously spotting the football after penalties. Other times, they were guilty of misapplied game administration and didn't know the rules.

And at times they were either too gullible or too ignorant. But now, let the real yellow flags fly.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2012

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