Denver Broncos fans should be paying close attention to the looming issue of the NFL using replacement officials to start the 2012 NFL season. Why? Because Denver has a new franchise quarterback by the name of Peyton Manning who is 36 years old. He's coming off a year in which he missed the entire season recovering from neck surgery. Now the Broncos are going to be forced to put him out on the field with neophyte referees watching his back. That prospect should frighten every single Peyton Manning fan out there.
The NFL referees contract ran out recently and its members have been seeking a slightly better deal for themselves. They want an 8% raise (the NFL is offering 2%), which would raise their per game rate by about $400. Yes, you read that right. The NFL wants that raise to be around $100 a game. There are some other issues that involve retirement benefits, but I think most fans would agree this seems to be a rather stupid thing for the NFL to dig its collective feet in the ground over.
Instead, they're hiring replacement officials who have absolutely no NFL experience. None of the these guys have worked in a major college football game. Some have only high school experience. They're going to be called upon to try and control a game with players far faster and meaner than they've ever seen before in person. How will they keep control of the game? How can they?
Players like Manning who are instrumental to their team will be at the highest risk. Broncos fans are already worried about what will happen the first time Manning gets hit or sacked. Typically that happened less than a handful of times per game when he was playing in Indianapolis (sacked just 16 times in 2010). What happens when he's playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers Week 1 and James Harrison goes after him the way he went after Colt McCoy in 2011? Imagine the kind of vicious, illegal hits that the players could lay on each other and not get tossed from a game?
It's simply asinine that the NFL would risk players like this. If a player like Manning, Drew Brees, or Tom Brady get hurt because of a mistake by a replacement official, there will be hell to pay from the fans. For a multi-billion dollar business like the NFL, haggling over a few hundred dollars per official and issues with retirement plans is a joke. Someone needs to get this deal done now before we all regret it.
Julie is a featured NFL contributor for the Yahoo Contributor Network. A lifelong NFL fanatic, she's been rooting for the Broncos since moving to Denver in 2001.