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NFL replacement refs: admirable effort or unacceptable incompetence?

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Monday night was a case in point. It took nearly an hour and a half to get the Atlanta Falcons and the Denver Broncos out of the first quarter. Replay officials reversed three on-field calls in the first 30 minutes of the game. Beyond that, the referees gave a fumble recovery to the Falcons despite the fact that a Bronco came out of the pile with the ball – leading to an on-field shoving match among the players. At another point, the referees mistakenly gave the Broncos 11 yards for what should have been a five-yard penalty.

Michael McCann, a sports law expert at Vermont Law School, gave the replacements' overall Week 2 effort a C-minus.

“The replacement officials are in way over their heads, and they can’t control the game at this level,” writes Bryan Burwell, a sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “With the replacements on the field … NFL games were teetering on the edge of uncontrolled, borderline riots.”

The union representing the 121 regular NFL referees wants higher pay – the referees now share an annual salary package of $18 million – and better retirement benefits, all of which would cost each team approximately an extra $100,000 a year. The league says it wants to keep the status quo.

The lockout has led to one historic moment: Shannon Eastin, a college referee, became the first woman to referee an NFL game. But the replacements may also be tarnishing the league's reputation.

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