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VOL. 36 | NO. 39 | Friday, September 28, 2012

Mawae: Replacements have to go

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It’s like a car wreck on the interstate. You don’t want to look, but we can’t help ourselves.

I’m talking about the NFL’s replacement officials, who are substituting for the real thing while the real officials and the NFL work on a new labor agreement. They are, literally, out of their league and forced to make calls that decide the outcome of games.

Twice in two days, officiating blunders have directly or indirectly determined who won game, one of which occurred right here before our eyes at LP Field.

Never mind that the hometown Tennessee Titans were the beneficiary of the error. Fact is, Sunday’s 12-yard gain because a personal foul penalty was assessed from the Lions’ 44 yard line and not the Titans’ 44. That helped put Tennessee in range for Rob Bironas 26-yard field goal that eventually won the game.

Those 12 yards were valuable to the Titans because the usually steady Bironas had been shaky on Sunday with two uncharacteristic misses. And let’s not kid ourselves, the Titans weren’t going to get that 12 yards by handing the football to Chris Johnson in the overtime period.

Things got even worse on Monday night at the end of the Green Bay Packers-Seattle Seahawks game when an interception by Green Bay’s M.D. Jennings on a “Hail Mary” pass was eventually wrestled away by Nashville’s Golden Tate, the former Pope John Paul II star, after the players were already on the ground in the end zone.

One official signaled interception, and another overruled him, calling it a touchdown.

In a Tuesday statement, the league office admitted only one error – that Tate should have been called for offensive pass interference on the play.

The game not only gave the Seahawks an illegitimate victory but, by rule, the Packers had to return from the locker room after being robbed to endure the mandatory extra point.

That’s like having to help the burglar carry your TV set out the door.

“If I were a player and that happened to my team, I would be irate to the nth degree,” says former Titans center Kevin Mawae.

It’s bad enough that a team like the Packers could lose a playoff tiebreaker somewhere down the line because of Monday night’s debacle. But the replacement ref situation goes even deeper than just wins and losses, adds Mawae, who once served as president of the NFL Players Association.

The NFLPA sent a letter to the league last week calling for an end to the lockout and hinting it could be a violation of the contract between the players and the league.

“I fully support the letter that the players association sent to the commissioner,” Mawae says. “The league has talked all this talk about player safety as its top priority, but they are jeopardizing just that by continuing to use these replacement refs.”

Mawae says the pushing and shoving and extra-curricular activities in the scrum and after the whistle is going to lead to someone suffering an unnecessary injury. And this is his concern.

“A good football player is going to play to edge of boundary regarding the rules,” Mawae says. “I did that in my career. But now that boundary just got moved a little further. I can do things I couldn’t do before because these new guys coming in, they don’t know what to look for as far as how far you can take it.

“As a professional, my job is to do take it to next step without compromising my team or someone’s safety. I’m not gonna blatantly try to hurt someone, but if you’re looking for that extra hold or if you can trip somebody up, those are the kinds of things that are taking place.”

Mawae says that leads to extra pushing, shoving and, eventually, injuries.

“When that happens, you have defensive guys getting mad, and it leads to chippyness, pushing and shoving and guys going after each other because these referees can’t control the situation,” Mawae says.

“How many times have you seen one of the regular officials get into the middle of a pile to keep something from escalating in order to keep things under control?”

Even with a terrible call deciding the outcome of Monday night’s game, there is still debate as to how long the NFL and is regular officials will remain in a stalemate.

Mawae says he doesn’t blame Commissioner Roger Goodell in the matter because Goodell ultimately answers to the owners. Mawae thinks something could break in the situation once a powerful owner loses a game or a key player due to an egregious error.

“When Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft or John Mara loses a game because of this, then you’ll see something done about it,” Mawae offers. “That’s what it goes back to – when is it gonna cost one of the heavy hitter owners? When Jerry Jones or Robert Kraft lose out because of this, then the regular refs will be back and they’ll say we should have changed this a long time ago.”

But Mawae says there is no excuse for allowing things like this to go on in the NFL.

“We played the game at its highest level, and it should be officiated at the highest level as well.”

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for and is the AFC blogger for National Football Post.

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