Every morning, the fine folks at Sports Radio Interviews sift through the a.m. drive-time chatter to bring you the best interviews with coaches, players, and personalities across the sports landscape. Today: Jerry Markbreit isn't optimistic that the scabs will get any better.
Jerry Markbreit joined ESPN New York with The Mike Lupica Show to discuss the growing disdain of replacement refs, what it was like when the NFL asked him to train the scabs and he said no, the NFL jeopardizing the integrity of the league, why Roger Goodell doesn't seem to care, the officiating getting worse by the week and the support shown by the Players Association toward the regular officials.
Did you watch the Monday Night Football game?
"To be very honest with you, I cannot watch the games, although I've gotten reports this morning about the fiasco that they had and I also was told by Jeff Triplette, one of our negotiators and head referees, that Steve Young made a statement on the air that the National Football League just doesn't care. And it's absolutely true. He's the first broadcaster that has come out and said that. They just don't care about the inadequacy and unprofessionalism of these scab referees who are trying to do something that they don't have the ability to do. It just makes me sick to my stomach. I wish this thing would end, but apparently the league doesn't seem to care about all this horrible publicity."
What was the conversation like when the league asked you to help train the scabs?
"Well, it was on June 6. We had a conference call with the nine of us and the office, the supervisors. They said, ‘We expect you to train the replacements. We want you to be in Atlanta on this date and then Dallas on this date.' And Ben Montgomery, who's the head of our training program, said, ‘Wait a minute. We are not going to train the replacements.' They said, ‘We need a voice vote. Nobody turns the NFL down.' We took a voice vote. Everybody said no. They said, ‘In that case, you guys are fired.' They asked for our computers back and shut off our website. … We haven't had any communication from them. We did not train them, nor would we. How could we help replace the fellas that we grew up with?"
On the NFL jeopardizing the integrity of games:
"The profession is so professional and [has] such integrity, how the league could jeopardize the integrity of these games, the safety of these games and, in the process, belittle the job that the professional referees have done over the years, because of a contract dispute that amounts to a piddly amount of money."
Why do you think Roger Goodell has dug in so hard on this when it revolves around such a small amount?
"My personal opinion is he doesn't care about the officiating. He doesn't value the officiating. The officiating in the NFL is the integrity of the league. The fans expect the games to be officiated properly by the best guys available. … It's obvious to me that he just doesn't care."
On the officials doing OK in Week 1 but then falling flat in Week 2:
"These officials, they can make correct calls. The first week, everything went OK. Everybody said, ‘Well, it looks like they're going to do a good job.' Every week, the intensity of the league grows. The games get tougher; the management of the games gets tougher. These guys have relied on competent, top-notch, terrific officials all these years, and now they have a bunch of amateurs out there. It's going to fall apart. It's not going to get better, as the commissioner said. … It's going to get worse. They're not calling fouls that would normally be called and the players are going to take advantage of that situation."
Has there been enough support from the Players Association?
"I think that the Players Association, I think they're voicing more opinion right now. I think they're heavily restricted from speaking. The only thing I know that they've all been told by the commissioner not to say anything about the officiating - not only them, but the coaches as well. We'd love to have the players say, ‘Look, either bring the officials back or we're not going to play.' But they can't do that because of their collective bargaining agreement."
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