Talks Between NFL and NFL Referees Association Stall, Replacement Officials Being Trained

ARLINGTON TX - FEBRUARY 06: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (R) speaks with Head Referee Walk Anderson during Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February 6 2011 in Arlington Texas. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The NFL has seen replacement players before, but replacement referees appear to be in line for the 2012 season.

A players strike in 1987 led to athletes crossing the picket line to play during the season, but the league hasn't used replacement (or "scab," depending on which side of the argument you're on) before.

Talks between the two sides broke down Monday, leading to the NFL walking away from the table after federal mediation failed to bring the sides together for a deal.

The NFL has said it will begin training and hiring replacement officials from wherever, outside of college football's BCS. Those officials cover both NFL and NCAA games, and the NFL doesn't want to put those officials in "an awkward situation."

As if a newly hired official standing-toe-to-toe with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin over a disputed pass interference call won't be awkward enough.

The amount of newly emphasized regulation in the NFL has led to officials having to watch for considerably more possible infractions - up to, and particularly, issues pertaining to player safety.

As we've seen far too many times this past season, officials simply cannot be the on-field deliverers of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's safety agenda. It's difficult to watch Steelers OLB James Harrison jamming a shiv into the side of whichever quarterback the Steelers are playing, all the while making sure the baton FS Ryan Clark uses to bludgeon receivers upside the head isn't being used.

Hiring inexperienced officials at the onset of a labor strife between the league and its officials will only be more gasoline on an already raging inferno. We often rip officiating, sometimes rightly so, but top to bottom, they get the call right 98 percent of the time. If that number drops, and with the newly selected officials far more likely to follow the safety script to the letter, players are going to have to prepare themselves to adjust very quickly to the way a game is being officiated.

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