NFL Begins Training Replacement Referees

"Yeah, I know I might have gotten that call wrong, but so far, it looks like I'll have plenty more time in the gym!"

There's a distinct possibility that, at least in the start of the 2012 NFL season, Ed Hochuli's bulging biceps won't be shown on national television.

That's because the NFL has begun training replacement referees, whose first training clinic started on Friday - also without nine of the league's most respected officals-turned-trainers.

"They wanted us to train the replacements which would absolutely not do," said [Jerry] Markbreit (official for 33 years, four Super Bowls, and eight conference championships), a native of Chicago and longtime resident of Skokie who wrote a column about officiating for the Tribune for many years. "We were all officials for 20-plus years. … How could we face our people? There wasn't a question about us doing this. We knew this was coming.

Markbreit and another referee both think the replacements will be anything but a good thing. Markbreit spoke on Friday with 670 The Score:

"When you put replacements in there, you are compromising the nature of the game. … None of them (are) from Division 1 colleges. The colleges and conferences will not allow their officials to work for the National Football League.

Referee Tony Corrente had similar concerns.

"It will really show up in the two-minute offenses, there are such amazingly complicated timing rules," Corrente said. "That's not something you're going to learn in a weekend seminar."

Then the NFL's official statement:

After Markbreit's comments were published, the NFL responded with a statement saying the trainers were not fired but are seasonal employees "who have decided not to work at this time. We asked for their NFL-issued laptops back so that those who are working right now can use them."

My thoughts... Let's be honest, NFL officiating hasn't been the most consistent or solid thing in recent seasons, but can we say college has been much better, if any? And then you're asking for guys below that to step in and officiate the game's highest level?

The NFL might think this is a good idea now, but after a few weeks of preseason, and even heading into the first week of a season, I wouldn't be surprised to see plenty of buyer's remorse regarding the quality of the product the new referees will provide.

Do you think the NFL will be able to last the season with replacement referees, or do you think their performance will lead to a rushed deal with the referees' union?

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