Adding to the growing resentment for the NFL's replacement officials, former referee Jerry Markbreit criticized the league Tuesday. Appearing on ESPN 98.7 FM's "The Mike Lupica Show," Markbreit said commissioner Roger Goodell is devaluing officiating in the league and warned that performance will get worse. "It's obvious to me that (Goodell) just doesn't even care," said Markbreit, who retired in 1998 after 23 NFL seasons. "Otherwise, how could they replace professionalism with unprofessionalism in a game that's so tough to work, even for the best officials in the land?" While some feel that the replacement referees will improve during the season, Markbreit doesn't see it that way. "The management of the games gets tougher (in the coming weeks)," he said. "These guys have relied on competent, top-notch, terrific officials all these years. And now they have a bunch of amateurs out there and it's going to fall apart. It's not going to get better, as the commissioner said ... It's going to get worse." Markbreit isn't alone, as coaches and players have made similar comments amid several questionable calls in Week 2. "When you look around at some of the calls being missed, player safety is the big issue," New York Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said Tuesday. The league's regular officials have been locked out since June, when their contract expired. Talks with the NFL Referees Association broke down several times, forcing the league to use replacements for the first time since 2001. There have been numerous issues. Over the weekend, one official was removed for being a New Orleans Saints fan. Also, Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy told SportsRadio 94 WIP in Philadelphia that an official told him that he needed him for his fantasy football team. "I'll be honest, they're like fans," McCoy said of the replacement referees. "One of the refs was talking about his fantasy team like, 'McCoy, come on, I need you for my fantasy.' Ahhh, what?" NFL senior vice president of communications Greg Aiello told ProFootballTalk.com in an email that NFL officials are prohibited from playing fantasy football. Markbreit chastised numerous missed calls, and agreed with the assertion that the use of replacements indicates that the league isn't concerned about players' health. "It's absolutely true," Markbreit said. "They just don't care about the inadequacy and unprofessionalism of these scab referees who are trying to do something that they don't have the ability to do. ... It just makes me sick to my stomach." In an email to ESPN, Aiello wrote that the league is "looking at how to improve officiating for the long term, and that is an important part of the negotiations with the NFLRA."
- Jerry Markbreit