The new eight-year agreement struck on Wednesday between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association means the experienced officials will be back on the field for the Buccaneers-Redskins tilt this Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, and for all the games around the league.
The reaction from various players in the Buccaneers’ locker room pretty much all hit the same note: ‘That’s great for the refs, but it wasn’t our top concern at the moment.’ The Bucs are busy preparing for rookie sensation Robert Griffin III and a battle between two 1-2 teams that could each easily be 3-0.
“As far as I’m concerned, we’re getting ready for RGIII and those guys,” said cornerback Aqib Talib, who had an interception in Dallas last Sunday confirmed by a replay challenge. “I wasn’t really too concerned about the refs.
“We didn’t have too big of a problem with the refs we had. As far as we’re concerned, we’re just out there playing football. I’m going to go play my game if [anyone] is wearing the striped shirts; it doesn’t really matter to me personally. It doesn’t really matter to me, but congratulations to those guys, they’ve got families to take care of.”
Obviously, the players acknowledge that the returning referees are more practiced at their art than their replacements, but who was throwing the flags was not an element of the game day atmosphere that the Bucs could control.
“They just have experience and they’ve been doing it for awhile, so you always want guys like that out there,” said cornerback Eric Wright, who doesn’t think the transition this weekend will be an issue. “I think as players we just kind of play the game the way the refs call it. If we have to adjust, then we will, but we’re used to having those guys out there so I think it’s going to flow pretty smoothly.”
If anything, says tight end Dallas Clark, the game’s will probably gain some efficiency this weekend with the return of the experienced officials.
“They have a tough job and I don’t know how they do it, but we just go out and play,” said Clark. “I think they’ll help with the flow of the game. You never really noticed a lull in their calls or anything like that. Just knowing the calls and where the ball needs to be, keeping the rhythm of the game.”