Is the NFL headed for replacement refs?

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Is the NFL headed for replacement refs?

From Comcast SportsNet
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) -- With no end in sight to the labor dispute between the NFL and its officials, commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that he is comfortable with the idea of using replacement officials in preseason games. Goodell said he doesn't think using officials with less experience will pose a safety risk to players. "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 during a visit to Green Bay's training camp. Replacement officials were on the field during practice Wednesday and are expected to stay in Green Bay through Friday's "Family Night" scrimmage. The Hall of Fame Game between the Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints is Sunday. Members of the NFL Referees Association were locked out in June after talks broke down. "We are in discussions with them," Goodell said. "We've had discussions recently. Hopefully we'll have more discussions with them in the near future. But as you can see, we're preparing for the season and we will have officials on the field. We hope that the officials from last season will be on the field again this year but to date, we haven't been able to get an agreement that makes sense for both parties." Goodell said the main emphasis in negotiations from the league's perspective was to find ways to improve officiating. "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," Goodell said. "And that's something that we're discussing with the officials. But the whole issue is, how do we continue to improve the officials?" The purpose for the proposed pool of additional officials hasn't been clearly defined, but it could become a way for the league to promote and demote officials based on their performance. Goodell said the league also has offered officials a pay raise as part of negotiations. "Of course, they're interested in compensation and benefits, we understand that," Goodell said. "We've made a proposal we think is fair, with an increase. It's five to 11 percent per official. We think we've been responsive on that, and hopefully we can get something done." Packers coach Mike McCarthy says he doesn't have any concerns about the use of replacement officials. "To me it's something that everybody has to deal with," McCarthy said. "(Supervisor of officials) Ed Coukart is here with the new officials, they worked practice today. We will spend some time tomorrow with the officials in our meetings as we have done annually. We're just moving forward. We're getting ready to play games and it's a business issue. As we know from the past, those things will get worked out, and we're just focused on our football team." Packers players generally seemed unaware of the ongoing labor dispute or the presence of replacement officials; the team usually has a group of local officials, generally with high school experience, present during practice. "I really don't pay much attention to those guys, other than the fact that I noticed none of them looked familiar," guard T.J. Lang said. "Talking about the refs, I don't really know what their situation is, so I can't really speak on that. But whoever they have in there, I'm sure they're going to get them coached up." Joked linebacker Desmond Bishop, "I had no idea about that. I was too focused on John Madden out there." The former Raiders coach and broadcasting icon also was at practice Wednesday. Goodell also was asked about recent comments from Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy, who said at last week's shareholders meeting that he couldn't support an 18-game regular season schedule because of health and safety concerns. "We haven't had any discussion about it," Goodell said. "Our view was, we were going to have to go through a full cycle of the offseason, training camp. We'll obviously be done with that shortly and then we'll get back to really analyzing it and trying to say, What are the positives and negatives about it?'" Goodell said he was not sure if the league has received an application for reinstatement from former Packers defensive lineman Johnny Jolly, who is suspended indefinitely for violations of the league's substance abuse policy. And with three Packers players -- defensive linemen Anthony Hargrove and Mike Neal, along with linebacker Erik Walden -- all facing league suspensions once the regular season starts, Goodell was asked whether he sees a trend developing from recent reports of player misconduct. "Fortunately, the vast majority of our players are terrific," Goodell said. "They do the right things on and off the field. And that's what we encourage. We have rules, we have policies, we want to make sure those are held to the highest standards, because we think our fans deserve it. And so If there's a violation or there's a trend, there's consequences for that."

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

No matter the metric or the occasion, the only thing definitive about the Bulls over the last two seasons has been their mystifying dominance over the Cleveland Cavaliers in head-to-head matchups.

That, and their fascinating streak of consecutive wins while playing at home on TNT, a streak that could end at 19 games Thursday night when the two teams with varying objectives clash at the United Center.

The Cavaliers are searching to find themselves, along with a light switch that will perhaps alert them to a lost defense over the past several weeks that has been worst in the league since the All-Star break.

The Bulls are searching for consistency, but since it’s probably a little too late in the season for that, they’ll settle for a playoff spot with eight games left.

They’ll take two straight wins for the first time in a month, if they can get it.

They’ll extend a goofy streak, if that’s what things will come down to.

“The big thing is obviously you have to execute very well against this Cleveland team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “You have to go out there with great urgency, great energy. I anticipate them coming in and playing with a ton of energy tomorrow. We’re going to have to match that. We’re going to have to come out and play physical basketball.”

Having a big break between games this late in the season is a rarity, as the Bulls have been off since Sunday evening, but it’s just another weird detail in this weird Bulls experience.

An experience that the mild-mannered Hoiberg has to experience from his couch some nights, such as watching the Miami Heat furiously steal a game in Detroit at the buzzer with a Hasaan Whiteside tip-in to extend a lead over his team to a game, followed by another win Wednesday to put more distance between the two teams.

“I did, actually,” said Hoiberg with a smirk when asked if he’s scoreboard watching and paying attention to the teams ahead of the Bulls in the playoff race.

After being prompted to give his raw emotions when Whiteside’s tip-in occurred, he slipped right back to Robo-Hoiberg—although one can imagine how animated he must’ve been while looking to catch a break from a previous contender for the eighth spot in the Pistons.

“It is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “You have to go out and worry about yourselves at this time of year. It was a great finish for Miami, obviously, the way that game ended. But there’s nothing you can do about that. You’ve got to worry about yourselves and hopefully go out and execute.”

Going 6-1 against the Cavaliers in his two seasons as Bulls coach is probably the biggest feather in his cap, including three wins in all three meetings this go round.

The rhyme or reason doesn’t seem explainable, but Nikola Mirotic seemed to give a few keys to the Bulls’ success over LeBron James’ Cavaliers: Sharing the ball, controlling the glass and getting back on defense.

“Against big teams, we play much better,” Mirotic said. “I don’t know why is the reason for that. We need to find a way to play against everybody like that. It’s on us. We just have to prove it.”

Usually, those tenets seem to work against most teams, not just the supremely talented champions who’ve just lost a grip on first place in the conference.

But their inconsistencies have left the Bulls here with a handful of games left before the April 12th finale.

A win over Cleveland could mean everything, or nothing at all, or something in between.

“Sure, we understand,” Mirotic said. “We’ve been in a very similar situation last year. We didn’t make the playoffs so this year we want to try to make that push. I think we have a good schedule for the last. Very important game tomorrow, huge one. I think we have played very well against Cleveland until now. We have a chance. We need to get out there and play with energy.” 

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