At the start of NFL 2012 season, the regular crew of referees have not been in charge of officiating the games. The NFL Referees Association and the National Football League are having trouble agreeing on money (what else is new?), but early on it didn't seem like a particularly big deal. When quarterback Joe Flacco came out with strongly worded comments condemning the NFL for using replacement refs instead of hammering out a deal with the old guard, the news was largely met with silence, if not outright scorn. Flacco was just upset, said the contrarians, because his team lost.
However, Steve Young went even further last Monday night, claiming that the NFL knows there is nothing that can happen that will diminish America's desire for football: "The bottom line is they [the NFL] don't care."
Eagles' running back LeShean McCoy even claims that a replacement referee told him outright that he needed McCoy to do well for his own fantasy league.
None of this is good press for the NFL, which have seen Young's comments played out publicly. If they stand ground, they run the risk of confirming what he said. If they rush out of the gates in an attempt to show concern for both player safety and the integrity of the game, they risk appearing weak with the locked-out refs.
The turning point might have been the Ravens' loss in Philadelphia, which prompted those comments from Baltimore quarterback Flacco.
This turning point, however, does not mean that this matter has passed the point of no return. The upcoming choices the NFL makes in regards to the money they will or won't pay their old refs will be reflected one way or another in future games. And if we reach a point where it seems the replacement refs actually do decide a game, that point will have arrived, and Young's words will have their veracity tested.