NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says he is comfortable with the idea of using replacement officials in preseason games.
The Hall of Fame Game is coming up Sunday and there is no end in sight to the labor dispute between the NFL and its officials. Goodell, however, said he’s not concerned that the officiating will not be up to standards.
“We're always focused on trying to improve the officiating and that's one of the issues that is in the discussions about how do we continue to improve officiating,” Goodell said as the Green Bay Packers conducted training camp practice under the watch of a crew of those replacement officials.
“How do we make it better? We proposed an idea where we could have another 21 officials so we could help train them and have a deeper pool of officials and be able to potentially move them in and out. And that's something that we're discussing with the officials. But the whole issue is, how do we continue to improve the officials? Of course, they're interested in compensation and benefits, we understand that. We've made a proposal we think is fair, with an increase. It's 5 to 11 percent per official. We think we've been responsive on that, and hopefully we can get something done."
Goodell says he doesn’t think using officials with less experience will represent a safety risk to players.
"That's the first (emphasis), and that's why we've been training them for the last two months and why they're on the field now, is to make sure they're prepared, they understand the rules," Goodell said. "You know, we had this experience in 2002, and the big impact we had in 2002 when we had the replacement officials was, you didn't get a lot of the holding calls and some of the other calls. Safety is obviously such a focus for us, they've been training on that basis. We have backup systems, we have instant replay, we now have our ATC spotter program and we have field review with video after the games are over. I really don't accept that premise, I think it's something that we'll continue to focus on with either replacement officials or officials when they get back."
Members of the NFL Referees Association were locked out June 3 after talks broke down.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy says he doesn’t have any concerns about the league using replacement officials in preseason games.
Follow Associated Press writer Chris Jenkins on Twitter at twitter.com/ByChrisJenkins.