By Tarik El-Bashir
If the NFL turns to replacement referees this fall, it’s possible Brian Orakpo will be affected more than most players on the Redskins’ roster.
The league locked out 121 officials on June 3 when negotiations on a new labor contract broke down. The league has since begun the process of hiring replacement officials to work preseason games and, if necessary, regular season contests.
“Obviously it’s a messed up situation that they can’t get something done,” Orakpo said this week at his second annual youth football camp in Fairfax. “Hopefully, they’ll get something done before the start of the season.”
“But if not,” the two time Pro Bowl selection continued, “we got to play ball.”
Orakpo is one of the league’s most feared pass rushers, having racked up 28.5 sacks in his first three seasons. He also draws more holding flags than most.
Replacement referees, according to an article in Wednesday’s Los Angeles Times, are more prone to missing infractions, such as holding, meaning it’s possible Orakpo could be subjected to more bear hugs, take downs and clotheslines than before.
From The Times:
According to referee Ed Hochuli, when replacement officials worked games in 2001, they threw between one and five penalty flags per game. He said there were between 12 and 14 penalties called in a typical game last season.
With training camp set to open Thursday, and the Redskins’ first preseason game a mere three weeks away, Orakpo’s concern over the impasse is growing. But he also said he won’t allow the prospect of replacement referees alter the way he plays.
“It doesn’t change the way I will approach the game at all,” he said. “I’m going to treat them like they’re a regular ref. …Fans didn’t come to see referees, so we just got to go out there and play ball.”
The impasse between the league and referees is over pay and benefits.