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Replacement Refs to Blame? Tennessee Titans’ Jake Locker Has Separated Shoulder: Local Fan’s Take

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The NFL has chosen to prevent the very officials that they have trained, championed and cultivated for decades to be on the field to protect players and -- by their own admission -- further our goal of enhanced safety. That is absurd on its face."

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith made this comment just one week before the 2012 NFL Kickoff Game on September 5. Smith expressed his concerns about the safety hazards from having inexperienced officials. He wouldn't rule out a players' strike.

Can botched officiating have an impact on player safety? The Tennessee Titans are the first example of a team who suffered an injury from botched officiating by the replacement refs. The injury could have been a catastrophic hit on the NFL's perceived image for improving player safety.

During the fourth quarter of a game against the New England Patriots, Titans quarterback Jake Locker attempted a deep pass to Nate Washington. Washington dropped the pass after he was crushed by Jerod Mayo and Tavon Wilson. As an incomplete pass, the play should've been blown dead.

The replacement refs never blew their whistles. The play continued as it was ruled a fumble. Patrick Chung returned the football deep into Titans territory. Locker made the tackle. In the process of making that tackle, he separated his non-throwing shoulder. Washington was also injured on that play.

The Titans re-gained possession when the call was overturned. However, the irreversible damage had already been done. The replacement refs missed a helmet-to-helmet hit on a defenseless receiver. Had the referees blown the play dead when they needed to, Locker would've never needed to make that tackle.

The Titans were fortunate: an MRI revealed no structural damage to Locker's shoulder. He'll still need to wear a brace when the Titans play the San Diego Chargers on September 16.

Who else is fortunate? NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. For Goodell, the worst thing that could have happened was a franchise quarterback suffering a serious arm injury due to botched officiating from the replacement refs. That would've even further validated Smith's point about player safety being jeopardized.

The NFL isn't concerned. In fact, they've reportedly prepared for replacement officials to officiate games through Week 5. Regardless of how fair or unfair it is, they're putting themselves out to a potential media firestorm if somebody suffers a serious, yet needless injury.

Commissioner Goodell may want to take a (fourth) timeout and rethink his stance.

Joshua Huffman graduated from Middle Tennessee State University as a marketing major in 2009. He's been a Middle Tennessee resident from 1986-88 and 2001-present. He lived in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin from 1988-01 and for approximately eight months in 2009-10 as he completed a 20-game volunteer position with the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers. His favorite sports organizations include the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs, Nashville Predators and Tennessee Titans. He can be found on Twitter HERE.

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