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Associated Press
Replacement referee Jerry Frump worked the Tennessee-New England game in the opening week then did the Pittsburgh-Jets game in Week 2.

No end in sight while criticism of refs rises

Criticism of NFL replacement officials has intensified after the second week of games, with loud, public pleas by players and commentators for the league to reach an agreement with its locked-out referees and get them back on the field.

“It’s just like a team of rookies,” Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said of the replacement officials. “If you’ve got a whole bunch of rookies on an NFL roster, you’re going to have a lot of mistakes out there. So it’s the same thing and that’s what we’re getting.”

Mike Pereira, the league’s former vice president of officiating and now an NFL rules analyst for Fox, publicly asked Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, a member of the NFL negotiating committee, to end the lockout.

“Arthur . . . get the refs to the table tomorrow and get this done,” Pereira wrote on Twitter Monday during the Falcons-Broncos game.

But if pressure on the league to strike a deal with the NFL Referees Association was increasing, there was no sign of a breakthrough. The league continued to stand by the replacement officials.

“Officiating is never perfect,” the league said in a written statement released Monday. The current officials have made great strides and are performing admirably under unprecedented scrutiny and great pressure. As we do every season, we will work to improve officiating and are confident that the game officials will show continued improvement.”

There appears to be much to improve. The NFL removed a replacement side judge, Brian Stropolo, before Sunday’s game between the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers after it was reported that photos of him wearing Saints gear were on his Facebook page.

Several games during the weekend featured scuffles among players. Some games seemed to drag on while officials worked through rules and replay issues.

The NFL Players Association has called replacement officials a safety issue for players.

“I’ve never been in a situation where you feel that there is going to be an explosion on the field,” Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said Monday following his team’s loss to St. Louis. “You’re hoping that doesn’t happen. It was very close to losing control.”

The Redskins weren’t alone in their ire.

Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco said: “The NFL and everyone always talks about the integrity of the game and things like that, and I think this is right along those lines. Not to say that these guys are doing a bad job, but the fact that we don’t have the normal guys out there is a little crazy.”

Pereira wrote Sunday on Twitter that “the regular refs need to get back on the field. Enough is enough.”

Last Wednesday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the replacement officials had performed well in the opening week and the league could continue to use them as long as needed. “They did a very credible job,” Goodell said, “and they’re only going to get better.”

The league and the referees are bargaining over salaries, benefits and non-economic issues. The NFL wants to increase the number of officials, make some of them full-time employees and enhance its ability to replace the ones it considers underperformers.

Average compensation for a game official last year was $149,000, according to a memo sent by league attorney Jeff Pash to all NFL teams. According to Pash’s memo, the league offered before the lockout to increase pay to $189,000 by 2018.

The referees association responded that the NFL was involved in a “misinformation campaign.” The organization says it just wants a fair deal that wouldn’t come close to taxing the sport’s mammoth revenues. Officials did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

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