A scary week of NFL play is in the books, but what will stand out most from Week 3 of the 2012 NFL season is the officiating, not the play on the field.
The "Fail Mary" in Seattle will surely soak up headlines, and rightfully so, but there's a much larger issue at play with the replacement refs on the field—the health of the players.
The NFL has undertaken a campaign to promote player safety through seminars, clinics, new equipment and new rules on player safety. But what has been overlooked is the on-field protection of players by the referees. Week 3 brought us many examples of this.
Assuming the stalemate between the NFL and the referees continues, what options do NFL players have? Very few, actually.
I spoke with a prominent AFC offensive player this week about what steps the NFL Players Association could take if it feels the referees aren't protecting the players on the field. His reply, "Nothing." Thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, NFL players are locked in to showing up for work every day for the next nine years—until the CBA expires.
Players aren't the only ones concerned, though. Agents are also worried about protecting their investments on the field. One agent emailed to tell us that one of his players wants to do something, but "good luck trying to convince me to give up a check for a week or two by sitting out." Players and agents see something is wrong, but their hands are tied. At least for now.
We can all hope the NFLRA lockout will end soon, but the fact of the matter is that the NFL owners and commissioner care about one thing, and it's not player safety or the integrity of the game. It's money.
As long as we're all tuning in on Monday, Thursday and Sunday, the NFL will continue to rake in record profits while exposing its employees to hazardous conditions on the field.