Players in feeling out process with new refs

BY foxsports • September 18, 2012

DAVIE, Fla. — Through two weeks of NFL games, there already have been several images and incidents that have rightfully or wrongfully been blamed on the replacement officials.

The Miami Dolphins, however, don't have major problems with how the replacement officials are calling games. They have other issues: It has been tough to establish a relationship with the replacements, and it's even tougher to figure out what they consider a penalty.

"Definitely with the regular refs, you know the crews, you know their names, you know what their tendencies are, and you know what they like to call," left tackle Jake Long said.

"You definitely had more of a personal relationship with them than these guys. But you know, you've just got to deal with it."

That's been the toughest part for the Dolphins, dealing with it. Usually during NFL games, players chitchat with officials and vice versa. It's just causal stuff, but the effort is appreciated, and it helps both sides. So far, that's not happening with the replacements. Apparently, they have other things on their minds.

"Not nearly as much chitchat," defensive end Jared Odrick said. "You can tell there's a little bit more nerves and on edge out there. They're under a lot of pressure, not just from a certain group of people, but from the whole country."

Don't discount the value of officials establishing a relationship with the players. They like the gesture, even when it's not sincere.

"Guys like Mike (Carey) and Ed (Hochuli), they're top-notch guys," linebacker Kevin Burnett said. "I can't say enough about them, because even in between the whistles, or during a TV timeout, you joke with them. They ask how your family is doing. Even if the guy doesn't know my name from Adam, at least he faked a concern, if he's faking, which counts. It counts for something."

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin had no complaints after Miami's 30-10 season-opening loss at Houston. He admitted it has been tough to memorize the officials' names, but he seemed genuinely impressed with their effort. Then again, the Dolphins haven't had many controversial or questionable calls in their two games.

"I thought those guys were good," Philbin said. "I think the guy's name was Kent (Intagliata), the guy on the sideline who made the call on the play Houston challenged in the first half, and it wasn't an easy call. He was decisive and made the call.

"It's just like in football, we tell the players all the time, and even in coaching, if you're decisive and you make a call, it may not be the perfect call and it may not always be the right call, but if you stick your neck out there a little bit, at least you've done something and you've made a decision and tried to move forward the best that you can. So, overall, I didn't think there was a lot of hesitation on the field with those guys."

Safety Reshad Jones didn't go as far as Philbin, but he seemed to appreciate the difficulty of the refs' task.

"There were a few calls that I was kind of second-guessing," he said of the opener against the Texans, "but that's their job and that's what they're getting paid to do, so I just let those guys do that and (I) go out and play football."

All the players said they'll try to introduce themselves to the replacement refs at some point on a game day, whether it's during the coin toss, during a timeout, during a dead ball or after a penalty.

Burnett said it's a matter of everybody — refs, players and coaches — going through an adjustment period.

"We're going to continue to get better as players, we're going to adapt to how they call a game," he said, "and they're going to continue to get better and learn, ‘Hey, that's not holding. It may have been holding in the first preseason game, but that's not holding.' So everything is changing."

Burnett said it's important to use diplomacy when dealing with the replacement refs. No cussing, no outward criticism.

"You have to be patient, because on one end of the spectrum, it could cost you a game, and on the other end it could win you a game," he said. "And guys remember. So if you (curse) a guy, now he's going to remember that next time he has one of your games."

But so far, at least for the Dolphins, the replacement refs haven't been a problem. That might change Sunday when Miami hosts the New York Jets. But right now the Dolphins are coping with these unknown, unfamiliar and, some would say, overmatched referees.

"You've just got to deal with it," Long said. "Just try to figure out their names and try to have a talk with them during the game. You've just got to deal with it."