With or without the league’s regular cast of officials, the game will go on. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed as much when he met with reporters at Packers training camp on Wednesday.
“We are in discussions with them. Hopefully, we’ll have some discussions in the near future. We’re preparing for the season and we will have officials on the field,” Goodell said.
Goodell was referring to the potential for replacement officials. Some of those replacement officials were working the Packers’ practice on Wednesday, as the league attempts to give those officials on-field experience, should they be needed to officiate games.
“That’s why they’re on the field now; make sure they’re prepared, understand the rules,” Goodell said.
The NFL used replacement officials for one week of the 2001 regular season, during a strike by the league’s regular officials. There were no controversial issues that resulted from the replacement officials’ work, but they clearly were hesitant to throw their flags. The belief is the league will be much better prepared to replace its officials this year, should the need arise.
Goodell said improved officiating is one of the issues in discussions between the league and its regular officials. “How do we improve officials?” he said.
The commissioner supports a deeper pool of officials that would allow for more training. He added that the league has offered a financial package to its officials that would increase compensation from 5-11 percent.
Goodell conducted an impromptu press conference adjacent to the action at Ray Nitschke Field. Green Bay is the first stop on his leaguewide tour of training camps. His next two stops are Chicago and Detroit.
“You always have a special feeling in Green Bay. This is what football is all about,” he said.
Lambeau Field was in sight when Goodell was asked for his thoughts on the venerable stadium’s current renovation and expansion project.
“I think it’s great. It’s terrific. What’s so special about it is there’ll be more general admission seats,” he said.
TV blackouts aren’t a problem in Green Bay, of course, but they are at issue in other places in the league, and the heightened TV presentation of the game is said to be a challenge for those places to overcome.
“There’s nothing like being at Lambeau Field,” Goodell said. “We’re trying to bring more technology into our stadiums. We’re operating at 96 percent capacity. Blackouts are at an all-time low.
“I think we can make the game more exciting, we can make it safer and those are the things we’re trying to do. We continue to focus on how we can make the fan experience better.”
Player conduct has been a major point of emphasis during Goodell’s time as commissioner. He reaffirmed his demand that players conduct themselves responsibly off the field, or else.
“The vast majority of our players are terrific. They do the right thing off the field. If there’s a violation, there are consequences for that. We want to make sure we hold that standard to the highest level,” he said.
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