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Replacement officials have their issues

Aug 24, 2012 -- 12:43am
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CINCINNATI – You know you probably made the wrong call when the guy who had to leave the game because of the hit says afterward that it was clean and undeserving of a penalty.

That’s precisely what happened to the replacement officials who worked the Green Bay Packers’ 27-13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Thursday night, as Packers tight end Tom Crabtree admitted that Bengals safety Taylor Mays was unfairly flagged for a 15-yard personal foul for a hit on a defenseless receiver.

“I know the called a penalty on it, but from the replay, I’m not ref, but it seemed like a clean hit,” said Crabtree, who suffered a shoulder injury on the play that knocked him out of the rest of the game. “That’s a hard call to make in a situation like that.”

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said he got an unsatisfactory answer from the official who made the call and said that the defenseless receiver rule was applied incorrectly.

“I thought I had a better view. I thought it was shoulder to shoulder and unfortunately the guy who made the call, his explanation was incorrect,” Lewis said. “It’s one of those things. They’re getting better; hopefully it will get closer and closer to what we need.

“His understanding is (Crabtree) was a defenseless receiver. Well, he was, but you’re allowed to hit a defenseless receiver shoulder-to-shoulder. There’s no such thing as a defenseless receiver unless you hit him head to head or with your head or by your head. Just kind of a misinterpretation.

“I know they’re working hard and the league is working hard to get this right. Working overtime actually. They’ll get better.”

Lewis’ comments are consistent with an NFL directive for coaches not to harshly criticize the replacement officials, who come from lower level college ranks and other professional leagues.

The Mays-Crabtree play wasn’t the only call the replacement officials, working the game while the NFL’s regular officials remain locked out and at an impasse on a new labor contract, missed Thursday night. There was also a blatant pass-interference penalty that should have been called on Bengals cornerback Leon Hall on a deep Aaron Rodgers-to-Jordy Nelson pass. Not only did the official miss the call, where Hall collided with Nelson as he was angling toward the ball, the official was also in the way of the play at one point when the ball was in the air.

Rodgers was blunt in his assessment of the call.

“That was pass interference,” Rodgers said before delivering his assessment of the replacement officials, who’ve now worked three preseason games and could be working the regular-season openers Sept. 5-10.

“I think that what you’re seeing, at least from my perspective the first three weeks, is maybe a little bit of a reluctance to throw the flags at times. It seems that there’s been less penalties thrown. I know they’re doing as good a job as they possibly can. I think they’re learning, so if we have to go with the replacement officials, I think you’re going to see them improve in their overall game management, just from learning on the fly. They got thrown into the situation and it’s a different game than college, and I’m sure they’ll be able to pick it up quickly. You see the differences in the styles.”

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