New refs are coming, and Rams get ready
The replacement officials are coming, and the Rams know there's nothing they can do about it.
"All those things are out of your control," Rams coach Mike Martz said Wednesday. "It's like the playing surface, or whether it rains or not. They'll make some mistakes, but the guys who have been doing it a long time make mistakes."
The NFL has decided that its contract talks with game officials are at an impasse, and to use replacements Thursday night in its six exhibition games. Replacements will work all of the preseason games this weekend, including Friday night's game between the Rams and the Chiefs at the Trans World Dome.
The replacements will work this weekend's game in part to help them prepare to work the regular season, which opens Sept. 9.
"We've got so many things to worry about that we can control," Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said Tuesday. "We try like mad to focus on all those things and don't get involved in the rest. I can get mad at a scab official just like I can a guy who's (earning) more money. I'm just not going to let that enter into my mind because they are going to be officiating both sides."
Just as during the regular season, the names of the crew for the Rams game Friday night will be made public just before the game, said Greg Aiello, vice president of public relations for the NFL.
The 120 replacements are current supervisors or from the ranks of officials who work college, NFL Europe or Arena League games. Aiello refused to provide the background of the replacements who will work the Rams game.
"I don't think it will matter," starting left guard Tom Nutten said, "because no matter who's out there you've got to play the game. What it boils down to is that the players can't do anything. Obviously you want to have the best but . . . it can't be on our mind."
Said Martz, "They make the same amount of mistakes on both teams," Martz said. "The team on the other side is going to have the same situation."
Lack of experience, though, could become an issue.
Said quarterback Kurt Warner, "I know they are taking guys from the Arena League and other places that aren't familiar, necessary, with what we do. I'd love to have the guys we have every week, but I understand the situation. Hopefully they'll be back soon. When officials become familiar with what guys do, it all benefits the league."
Said wide receiver Isaac Bruce, "These are guys who have pretty much been in this league my entire career. I know them. They know me. They know how I play. It's going to be an adjustment when new guys come in. We're going to have to learn each other all over again."
How steep is that learning curve? David Parry, the supervisor of officials for the Big Ten Conference, said the NFL is taking a big risk by using college replacements. "The speed of the game is a lot different from what they are used to," Bruce said. "I'm sure they'll be able to pick it up sooner or later. They'll have to do what it takes."
Added Martz, "It will be very, very difficult for them . . . but they'll try to do an equitable job. We'll try and help them as much as we can.
"I think this group will come in and do a good job. Obviously they have some training. They'll be real schooled on the pro game and how tight to call things."