The NFL's unresolved labor dispute with its regular crews of referees has triggered an unwelcome development: replacement referees.
The NFL locked out the officials and hired replacements to work the preseason games and is prepared to have them oversee the regular-season games, barring a breakthrough in negotiations.
The replacement referees' presence has drawn heavy criticism from former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira, among others.
If Ravens coach John Harbaugh is concerned about the quality of the officiating heading into tonight's preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome, he's not letting on.
"We don’t even think about that," Harbaugh said. "The refs will be fine. They will be what they are. Everybody is going to try to do their best. Our guys have plenty of things to worry about besides the officiating.”
Meanwhile, Pereira noted this week that Hall of Fame Game referee Craig Ochoa wasn't a former Big Ten Conference referee, as he was billed by the NFL.
“They've tried to say that Craig Ochoa was a BCS official, that he worked in the Big Ten," Pereira said during a WSCR radio interview, also noting that many replacement officials were dropped from their college conferences for performance issues. "He didn't work in the Big Ten. He's not been a major college official. I don't think the NFL is going to say that he actually got released midway through the last Lingerie Football League season as a referee.
"I don't think the league is going to put that out. The league wants as little out as possible. They don't want people talking about it. They don't want me talking about it."