In a recent interview with SI.com, NFLPA Executive Director Maurice Smith referred to the league's lockout of officials as "absurd" and would not rule out the strong possibility of a player strike. Smith stated that the replacement referees have created an environment in which the players feel unsafe, which also jeopardizes player health/safety.
"The NFL has chosen to prevent the very officials that they have trained, championed and cultivated for decades to be on the field to protect players and - by their own admission - further our goal of enhanced safety. That is absurd in the face," says Smith.
What's absurd about the situation is that there hasn't been any significant injuries; yet (knock on wood). When you watch some of these pre-season games, it's amazing the blown calls, the mistakes, and ludicrous calls that these preseason games have had. For instance, in the Jets vs. Panthers game, the replacement referees announced a penalty on David Harris, when it was really on Bart Scott. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to remember a simple name and number on the back of a jersey.
Smith claims that the league has prioritized financial concerns over player safety, which inevitably is true. The NFL and NFL Referee Association have yet to reach an agreement, making Goodell acknowledge that using replacement referees for regular-season games is a realistic possibility. One of Goodell's points of emphasis in justifying the decision to have replacement referees is the fact that NFL officials probably need a week to 10 days to prepare for the season, and opening night is only one week away, on September 9th (Giants vs. Cowboys). NFL Referee Association lead negotiator Mike Arnold contradicts that statement, saying that officials have been training on their own during the course of the lockout, therefore would only need less than a week to prepare.
The truth of the matter is, the players and NFL Management have made a huge difference in changing the way players hit, and how they tackle, in order to prevent injuries. Without trained NFL referees, the initial movement is worthless. Players are not going to want to play this grueling sport if they don't feel that they are safe, and many reports from sources even say that they feel uncomfortable with the replacement referees. Therefore, a player strike cannot be ruled out, it could actually be very possible. With the NFLPA and NFL Management already gone through a player lockout last year that almost delayed the start of the NFL season, this lockout could drag on a lot further, as neither side is willing to cooperate with the other, and no positive negotiations have been discussed. With this being said, don't rule out the possibility that the players will come together to protest about the situation. What's the use of trying to enforce new rules on tackling and hitting in order to prevent safety, if the replacement referees are almost unintentionally enforcing the opposite of what the new rules are trying to convey. Start planning your Sunday's without football, because we might not see the Giants vs. Cowboys matchup for a long time.