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NFL: Replacement ref feels 'demonized'

The SportsXchange

Now that the National Football League's regular referees have returned to the field -- they received a standing ovation before Thursday's game between the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns -- the replacement officials have the memories of working at the highest level.

The memories aren't all good. To Jeff Sadorus, the experience includes dealing with "becoming a punching bag for bloggers and broadcasters, players and coaches, television animators and late-night talk show hosts," according to a New York Times report.

"My daughter found the 'Call Me Maybe' video they did of us and showed it to me, and I had to laugh," said Sadorus, a former college official who worked as a field judge. "Honestly, sometimes during this whole thing it felt like the national pastime in this country had changed from football to bashing replacement officials."

"Everyone wanted perfection, but come on: the last guy who was perfect they nailed to a cross. And he wasn't even an official."

Sadorus described his three-week stint as "a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," but it also came with about four months of clinics, camps, exhibitions and games, along with the knowledge that every call would be subject to intense scrutiny.

Sadorus earned $3,000 per game, plus a seemingly never-ending barrage of criticism from all sides, including on an episode of "South Park."

The controversy came to a head in the closing seconds of Monday night's game between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers, a blown call that likely led to a resolution.

Sadorus received an email near the end of May from an area scout who was seeking potential replacements. Sadorus has worked in the Pacific-10 Conference until 2010. He then attended a rules clinic and fitness test, where replacement hopefuls were put through a rigorous test in difficult weather conditions to root out the best candidates.

Nearly two months later, Sadorus was notified via e-mail that he had been placed on a replacement crew. He knows that becoming a replacement official may have strained relationships with regular NFL officials.

"We weren't there to take anyone's job; we were there to provide a service," Sadorus told the paper. "The games were going to get done by someone. It's the old saying: without officials, it's just recess."

In the end, Sadorus said, "We worked very, very hard. As demonized as we were, I hope people remember that we are people, too."

---Former replacement referee Lance Easley, who made the controversial touchdown call in Monday night's game between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers, stands by his ruling, according to a TMZ report.

"It was the correct call," he told the web site. "I didn't do anything wrong."

Easley argued the case of simultaneous possession, meaning the catch should be awarded to Seahawks receiver Golden Tate.

"Put any other official who knows the rules and they would make the same call," Easley told the site. "The Packers player (M.D. Jennings) who allegedly intercepted the ball never had singular possession because, "You have to not only have the ball, but have either two feet or a body part on the ground, and that never happened."

On the play, which the league ruled couldn't be overturned on video review based on a lack of conclusive evidence, it appears that Jennings has one foot on the ground while he and Tate wrestle for ball. By the time Jennings gets his second foot down, Tate has both feet down and has at least one hand on the ball.

Easley told TMZ that no one has seen a play like this before, and doesn't "appreciate the negative stuff."

---With regular referees back on the field, National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to fans Friday about the labor negotiations with the game officials.

To NFL Fans:

The National Football League is at its best when the focus is on the players and the action on the field, not on labor negotiations.

All of us who love the sport appreciate the skills and dedication of the players and coaches. That is why we are focused not just on what happens on the field but what our game will be like in another decade or two. The NFL has always tried to look ahead, to innovate, and to constantly improve in all we do.

We recognize that some decisions may be difficult to accept in the passion of the moment, but my most important responsibility is to improve the game for this generation and the next.

I believe in accountability, not excuses. And I regret we were not able to secure an agreement sooner in the process and avoid the unfortunate distractions to the game. You deserve better.

As a lifelong fan, this wasn't an easy process for anyone involved. I particularly want to commend the replacement officials for taking on an unenviable task and doing it with focus and dedication in the most adverse of circumstances.

Our new agreement gives long-term stability to an important aspect of our game, officiating. More important, with this agreement, officiating will be better in the long run. While the financial issues received the most attention, these negotiations were much more about long-term reforms. For example, beginning with the 2013 season, the NFL will have the option of hiring a number of officials on a full-time basis to work year-round, including on the field. In addition, the NFL will have the option to retain additional officials for training and development purposes, and may assign those additional officials to work NFL games.

We are moving forward with the finest officials in sports back on the field. It's time to put the focus where it belongs -- on the clubs and players and our magnificent game, with a special thanks to our fans for their passion.

Roger Goodell

---The Los Angeles-Orange County market may have to wait years before the NFL agrees to let teams relocate to the area, according to a report in The Orange County Register.

The report cites former NFL and pro sports executives and consultants involved in previous NFL team relocations and stadium projects. They said the process could still take a while, regardless of whether the Los Angeles City Council approves the Anschutz Entertainment Group's plans for a $1.5 billion downtown stadium, which was expected Friday.

AEG and city officials say they are closer to bringing an NFL team to the area than at any point since losing the Rams and Raiders in 1995, but league officials have major concerns about both AEG's Farmers Field project and plans for an $800 million privately funded stadium in the City of Industry, the executives and consultants told the paper through interviews this week.

"The NFL is not going to allow this to be done unless and until they're absolutely convinced it's going to be successful," Marc Ganis, president of the Chicago-based SportsCorp Ltd., and a consultant on the Raiders' move to Oakland from Los Angeles, told the paper.

Teams can apply for relocation on Jan. 1, 2013, and a move could be approved by the NFL at its March league meeting. But the executives and consultants told the paper said that the NFL likely wouldn't be ready until 2014 or even 2015 to allow a team to relocate to Southern California.

---Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita is expected to deny the existence of an orchestrated bounty system when he meets with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday, according to an ESPN story.

Fujita is the final player to meet with Goodell after an appeals panel ruled to lift the suspensions of the four players who were punished. Like his former New Orleans Saints teammates, Fujita will reinforce the notion that such a program never existed.

He has maintained his innocence since the scandal surfaced in March.

The meeting between the two had originally been scheduled via a video conference from a Cleveland law office, but the league cancelled it because it wanted a face-to-face meeting.

An announcement by Goodell is expected Monday or Tuesday of next week, as to whether Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Anthony Hargrove and Fujita will be disciplined.

---The New York Jets will not place injured cornerback Darrelle Revis on the injured/reserved list yet, just in case there is a chance he can return from knee surgery this season, coach Rex Ryan said on ESPN New York Friday.

Revis tore his left anterior cruciate ligament last Sunday against the host Miami Dolphins. He will not have surgery for a few more weeks because doctors want to give the knee a chance to improve first. Usually, ACL's take six to nine months to heal.

"Let's see what happens when he goes through surgery," Ryan said, "because if there's that 0.0002 percent chance that he could play in a Super Bowl or something, why would you take that option away from him?"

Ryan said Revis' return this season is not likely, but he is holding out hope.

"You don't have to make a snap decision and say, 'Well, let's place him on IR and replace him with somebody,' " Ryan said. "If you are fortunate enough to get there, why wouldn't you -- at least if he does well in the surgery and he is healthy for that and he is targeted for that -- why wouldn't you believe in yourself enough to give yourself that opportunity?"

Kyle Wilson and Ellis Lankster are expected to step in to replace Revis while he is out, with Wilson starting.

NFL rules allow each team to designate one player on IR this year as "designated to return." Despite that, the Jets are not ready to tag Revis in case another player has an injury of similar magnitude. Instead, the team will wait until after Revis has surgery before making a decision to take him off the active roster.

"Our trainers are confident that Darrelle is going to come back from this injury," Ryan said. "At some point they think he's going to be 100 percent from this injury. Now, when that time is, I'm not sure. Number one, I feel great about that. Obviously we feel great about that, being Jet fans and being in this organization. You feel great about that. When that time is, I'm not sure, but I think we'll have a much better understanding after he has the surgery."

---New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks was listed as doubtful on Friday's injury report after developing swelling in his left knee.

He had been expected to return to the lineup against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday after missing the Giants' Week 3 game at the Carolina Panthers with soreness in his surgically-repaired right foot.

Nicks landed on the knee in the Week 2 victory over Tampa Bay, but it's not certain if that's what contributed to the swelling.

---Despite reports that Kellen Winslow's chronic knee pain may have been why he asked for his release from the Patriots on Thursday, the tight end says he's looking forward to continuing his NFL career.

"I'm lookin forward to my next opportunity in the NFL and continuing to play the game I Love!," he wrote on twitter.

Winslow reportedly asked for his released and the Patriots granted his request prior to Thursday's practice.

Winslow made just over $48,000 and logged four offensive snaps with one reception in his only game with the team Sunday night at Baltimore.

---Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford practiced for the second straight day Friday and is expected to start against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

Stafford left last week's loss against the Tennessee Titans with a leg injury and did not practice Wednesday.

Tight end Tony Scheffler (calf) practiced Friday and is expected to play Sunday.

Safety Louis Delmas remains out with a knee injury.
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