The Bears endured some goofy moments but were virtually unscathed by the NFL’s use of replacement officials in the first three weeks of the season. In fact they benefitted from bad calls that cost the Packers and Lions in recent losses.
But they’re still glad to have the real officials back.
”I’m just happy it’s over with,” Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall said when asked whether receivers or defensive backs benefitted the most from the replacement officials.
”We get some of thsoe guys back that we’re familiar with and hopefully the game is a little cleaner.”
The NFL’s lockout of their regular officials reached a crisis point on Monday night, when a series of missed calls marred the Packers-Seahawks game on Monday Night Football. Two days later, the NFL and the officials union reached an agreement that would allow the regular officials to work this week’s games. And even NFL commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged the Packers-Seahawks debacle, ”might have pushed things along.”
The Bears joined the rest of the NFL in applauding the agreement.
”Getting those guys back is going to clean up the game,” Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said. ”the game’s are going to move along. The indecision is going to go awayt, which I think is the biggest thing you see across the league.”
The impact of the replacement referees was so negative that Bears players were sincerely chagrined to have benefitted from the Packers’ 14-12 loss to the Seahawks on a missed call in the end zone.
”The Packers lost, it’s good for us,” center and team captain Roberto Garza said somewhat sheepishly. ”Luckily we don’t have to deal with that anymore.”
Marshall said he felt sorry for the Packers. ”I do,” he said. ”It helps us out, but at the same time, those guys work really hard and put a lot into their preparation on and off the field. So to lose a game like that, that’s tough.
”I’ve got some guys on that team [that] I went to college with and played with. But it’s the NFL and we’ve got to move forward.”
Though he will be happy to have the regular officials back, Marshall didn’t denigrate the replacement officials — mostly small-college and high school officials who tried as hard as they could but were not prepared for the speed of the game. And their performance worsened as the scrutiny of their work became more intense.
”I have a lot of compassion for those refs,” Marshall said. ”You take guys like them and throw them in so quickly, everyone’s dogging them and that’s tough. So I’m glad it’s over with. But those guys did the best I could and I appreciate that.”
Garza said the players also will benefit by working with officials with whom they are familiar.
”You know the groups, you know what they call, what they don’t call, what you can get away with,” Garza said. ”Fortunately, whoever calls the game, we have an understanding of what those guys let you get away with.”
Coach Lovie Smith succinctly spoke for everybody in his post-practice press conference.
”We’re excited about getting the regular officials back,” Smith said. ”Life’s good in the NFL.”