Aaron Rodgers apologizes to fans, blasts NFL over ongoing labor impasse with officials

Doug Farrar

It was reported on Tuesday that Green Bay Packers players would not be fined for their negative tweets after Monday night's 14-12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in which officiating played a bit of a factor. What the NFL chooses to do with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers after the quarterback went off on his weekly radio show might be a different story.

When he got on the horn for his "Tuesdays With Aaron" show with Jason Wilde on Milwaukee's ESPN 540 radio, Rodgers went on a blistering tirade about the results of the game, and the league's seeming lack of concern about how games are affected.

The NFL's statement, which claimed that the Golden Tate touchdown catch was correctly called even though it wasn't, and Packers safety M.D. Jennings should have had an interception, was very much on Rodgers' mind.

But first, Rodgers wanted to extend an apology to the fans.

"Some stuff just needs to be said. First of all, I've got to do something that the NFL is not going to do, and I have to apologize to the fans. Our sport is generated -- the multi-billion machine -- is generated by people who pay good money to come watch us play. And the product on the field is not being complemented by an appropriate set of officials. The games are getting out of control.

"Like I said in the first week, I said, 'I'm OK with replacement refs as long as they don't have a direct impact on the game.' Obviously last night there was a direct impact on the game on multiple plays that we'll get into. But my thing is I just feel bad for the fans. Because they're pay[ing] good money to watch this. The game is being tarnished by an NFL that obviously cares more about saving some money than having the integrity of the game diminished a little bit."

Rodgers may have felt that way before the end of Monday night's game, but the issues common to most games officiated by the NFL's current replacement crews were going on in the Packers-Seahawks contest before that one controversial call. There were several questionable calls and non-calls through the game, the atmosphere was chippy on the field, and the replacement refs once again seemed to have no real concept of how to handle play-to-play administration.

"But let's remember who we are dealing with," Rodgers said, mentioning that these officials do not come from the fertile training grounds of the SEC and other major college divisions. "We're dealing with an NFL that locked out the players and said, 'We're going to stand firm on our position.' I don't any owner would be too upset about the deal that finally agreed to by both sides. This is an NFL that locked the players out …  an NFL that gambled on some low-level referees, including the guy who makes the most important call last night, who's never had any professional experience."

And as a guy who was once locked out by the NFL over more than a few dollars, Rodgers shares the stance of most people -- he's aghast that the league would sacrifice the integrity of its product over a relative pittance.

"This is a multi-billion dollar operation against 16 to 17 crews of seven to eight of 35- to 50-year-old guys who want a little insurance on the back end, want to be taken care of for the job that they do, believe that their job is an important part of that shield, the NFL brand. It's obvious now more than ever — not just our game … but ours probably a little more than others — it's obvious the stance the NFL has taken."

In other words, it took an officiating meltdown for the players to see the refs' side of things.

As to the league's statement that the "simultaneous catch" aspect of the Golden Tate touchdown call was correct, Rodgers saved his best blast for last. He said that the statement was "unbelievable," and that the NFL was basically covering its butt.

This is the first time that a player of Rodgers' caliber and visibility has come out and openly declared that the NFL's position on its officials is not only affecting, but eroding, the quality and integrity of the game. Some might call it sour grapes, but Rodgers plays for the first team to lose a game it should have won due to the replacement officials.

Odds are, he won't be the last. And as a result, we haven't heard the last of these types of remarks.