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Safety A Concern With Replacement Officials, Players Say

By ZAC BOYER

zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

ASHBURN – Several Washington Redskins players expressed concern for the safety of themselves and others around the league on Monday after multiple late hits and cheap shots were not regulated by the replacement officials in the 31-28 loss at St. Louis a day earlier.

Shanahan

“I’ve played a lot of football in my years, and I’ve never been a part of a game that was that chippy,” cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. “[There were] so many extracurricular things going on after the play.”

The league locked out the 119 officials, who are considered part-time workers and hold other full-time jobs, in early June over differences regarding to job status, salary, benefits and retirement packages. It has been using lower-level college officials and those from the multitude of indoor leagues since the start of the preseason, and reports indicated Monday representatives from each side have not met since Sept. 1.

A statement issued by the NFL on Monday defended the use of the replacement officials, even while players and coaches across the league are deriding their performance.

“Officiating is never perfect,” the league’s statement said. “The current officials have made great strides and are performing admirably under unprecedented scrutiny and great pressure. As we do every season, we will work to improve officiating and are confident that the game officials will show continued improvement.”

Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan was leery of speaking about the officials both after the game on Sunday and again on Monday because league rules prohibit evaluating or criticizing their performance. He did say that while he would submit calls he deemed questionable to league offices for review, he chose not to do so on Monday because “there’s too many.”

“You talk to the league and you let them know how you feel,” Shanahan said, adding that he hadn’t done that yet, either. “I’m sure this will get back to them.”

The officiating crew that worked the Redskins’ game on Sunday was led by Wayne Elliott, who has 21 years of experience as a football official and works as both a real estate agent and the executive secretary of the Austin (Texas) Football Officials Association.

Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe wrote a scathing open letter, circulated on the Internet, to Elliott and his crew after 20 penalties were called in a preseason game against San Diego. His message, about player safety, was echoed Monday by Hall.

“I remember [London Fletcher], one time, taking on a block and finally got off that block and slipped and fell and somebody just dove on him, head-first, a 300-pound lineman [Quinn Ojinnaka],” Hall said. “Come on, man. You can get somebody hurt out here.”

Fletcher said Monday that officials did not speak to him, as a team captain, during the game about trying to stem aggressive play. Most officiating crews would deliver such a warning.

The officials also potentially erred on several other calls. Fletcher and Rams defensive end Eugene Sims were flagged for what were deemed late hits, while Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins was not penalized for hitting a defenseless receiver when he struck Redskins tight end Fred Davis in the sternum with his left shoulder as he tried to catch a pass thrown by Robert Griffin III with 4:54 remaining.

They also failed to penalize St. Louis head coach Jeff Fisher for challenging a fumble by running back Steven Jackson with 9:09 remaining in the second quarter. As a turnover, the play is automatically reviewed, and attempting to challenge it is considered unsportsmanlike conduct – a 15-yard penalty.

“The official told me he would have done the same for me, and I said, ‘Well, if you would have done the same for me, I would have expected you to throw a flag if I threw a flag in that situation,’” Shanahan said. “Anyway, there was no penalty.”

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