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By: Aj Mansour | KFAN.com
Minneapolis, MN - I think it's safe to say that at this point, the NFL's experiment with replacement officials has been a colossal disaster. While there has yet to be a particular game that was decided by referee error, it seems as if it is only a matter of time.
Through the four preseason games and into the first week of the regular season, the fill-in referee's struggles have been highlighted, replayed and criticized across the nation. We've had misplaced spots, phantom calls and confusion littering the integrity of the nation's most popular sport. Still neither side of the negotiations are willing to budge.
Week two of the regular season brought on a handful of new challenges for the league and its officials. For the first time this season its effect was felt at Winter Park, by the Minnesota Vikings as players and coaches began becoming a little more vocal with their disdain.
Late in the second-half of the Vikings' game against the Indianapolis Colts, wide receiver Percy Harvin was flagged for an offensive pass interference penalty costing the Vikings 10-yards. The infraction put the Vikings in a tough spot and forced a three-and-out which would turn out to be the only non-scoring drive for the Vikings in the final quarter (excluding the final eight seconds). Back at Winter Park after reviewing game film this week, Percy Harvin was not too happy with the direction that the call ended up going, and he made sure that his displeasure was heard.
"It was a terrible call," Percy said flatly. "[The defender] kind of was shielding me from the ball and I was just trying to get around him to the ball."
When the play happened, Percy was seen staring down the officials looking for an explanation on why he was flagged.
"He didn't say anything," Harvin said. "He was just looking at me, and I was looking for what he was talking about and he didn't give me anything, so that's just frustrating."
Each week, Harvin and the Vikings compile a tape of questionable calls that they submit to the league looking for an explanation or clarification on the infractions. In the past, team's didn't always reach their 10 play limit that they are allowed to question. But recent troubles with the replacement refs have assured teams that their tapes would be full as they wish they could exceed their 10 play limit.
Joining The Paul Allen Project earlier this week, ProFootballTalk.com's Mike Florio explained why these tapes and player complaints don't mean a thing to the NFL right now.
"The NFL has decided that they're not going to give in," Florio explained. "Any complaint, it doesn't matter. Any criticism, it doesn't matter. High profile players coming out, it doesn't matter. The NFL thinks that at some point the locked out officials are going to say 'we're ready to come back to work.'"
Florio didn't mince words when he added his thoughts saying that "these [replacement] guys are going to stink all year" and other noteworthy ex-referees have said that it will likely only get worse.
The criticism reached ne heights this weekend when the problems added yet another new wrinkle into the mix as the troubles with the replacement officials extended beyond the playing field and into the hearts and even pocket books of some officials.
There were three separate instances during week two that could have realistically jeopardized the integrity of the game.
The first incident came out early Sunday morning as a referee (Brian Stropolo) working the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers game was removed from the officiating crew when it was discovered that his Facebook page was littered with photos of him dressed in Saints gear and tailgating before Saints games.
Being a die-hard fan of a team is one thing, but being on the payroll of a team, now that's a completely different situation.
Incident number two surface Monday afternoon when it was reported that one of the referees from week one's Seattle/Arizona debacle in which the refs gave Seattle a 4th time out, was actually on the Seahawks' payroll for the last three years. Reportedly, one of the officials from that game had been working regular season practices for the 'Hawks and was regularly being paid by the team.
And it doesn't get much worse than in incident three when gambling was potentially introduced into the fold.
Joining a Philadelphia area radio station on Tuesday, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy said that one of the officials mentioned that he needed McCoy to score so that he could win his fantasy football game.
In the interview, McCoy said, "One of the refs was talking about his fantasy team, like, ‘McCoy, come on. I need you for my fantasy,' ahhh, what?!"
It's unclear if the comment was said as a joke or not, or if there was money on the line, but it stirs up bad memories of the NBA and corrupt official Tim Donaghy. Since the incident, NFL spokespeople have come out and said that NFL officials are not allowed to play fantasy football for just this reason. But these are not normal NFL officials. Some are former 9-man football officials, some are former lingerie football officials and most are fans of the game.
Currently, the NFL thinks that they can sit back in their corporate offices as long as they want to, unwilling to give an inch to the locked out officials. But they need to realize that the longer these replacement officials are around, the more players and coaches will be working to take advantage of their inexperience. There is a fire-storm building and as soon as these officials cost a team a game or a player gets injured when a game is out of hand, there will be hell to pay and it will be on the league, not the locked out officials.
Aj Mansour covers Minnesota Sports for KFAN.com. Feel free to leave comments and questions regarding this post in the space provided below. For Vikings' updates and breaking Vikings' news, follow Aj on Twitter. @AjMansourKFAN