After the debacle that was Week 2 of the 2012 NFL season, the league office has taken swift and proactive action to remedy the problems between coaches and replacement officials. Unfortunately, that action has nothing to do with training or replacing those officials with better ones, or the real ones who have been locked out for months. Instead, the NFL has issued a warning to all 32 NFL teams insisting that the behavior seen from coaches such as Atlanta’s Mike Smith, Denver’s John Fox, and San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh will no longer be tolerated. Those coaches, who were reacting to ridiculous mishandlings of in-game situations by unqualified refs, have been told in no uncertain terms to cut it out. ESPN’s Adam Schefter was told by NFL VP of Football Operations Ray Anderson that “We contacted [the teams] to remind them that everyone has a responsibility to respect the game. We expect it to be adhered to this weekend and forevermore.” Schefter asked what would happen if any coach violaed the sanctity of the league’s new hands-off policy. “If someone were to make that mistake, he would be flagged on the field and he would be hearing from our office in a very firm way,” Anderson said. Clearly, this is yet another example of the NFL trying to cover its own collective backside in a labor war with its longtime officials that has been a severe detriment to the game. Perhaps the best example occurred on the most national stage. During the Monday Night Football game between the Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos, there were several interminable delays that had the telecast going just short of the four-hour mark as the replacements tried in vain to take charge of a game that was spiraling out of control at all times. Falcons defensive end Ray Edwards actually put his hands on an official during one fracas and was not ejected, Broncos center J.D. Walton pulled one official out of a pile and wasn’t even penalized, and there were two embarrassing spot foul mistakes that you wouldn’t expect of first-year high-school refs. ESPN’s broadcast crew, normally cognizant of its relationship with the NFL, went rogue because it could do nothing else.
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