Cushing imagines life with replacement refs

HOUSTON -- Brian Cushing isn’t inserting himself into the middle of the NFL’s lockout of its game officials.

But the Texans inside linebacker didn’t shy away from the issue either, and said he hopes the dispute is resolved in time for the best possible officials to oversee games at the start of the 2013 season.

“I do think it’s important for them to get it resolved,” Cushing said Tuesday afternoon. “I think these are elite officials that are established, that have been here for a while and I think they make a big contribution to what we do.

“The NFL has worked so great for so long now. I feel like it’s a great system that’s kind of been mastered. You look at so many other professional sports, there are so many different areas where people complain. Football is just America’s sport. I really think it’s developed into that, and obviously the officials are a big part of it and hopefully we get them back as soon as we can.”

The officials are fair and want the best for everyone, Cushing said, and he knows that if replacements are used and a crucial call is missed on opening day, it will result in a giant story.

“There’s be a lot of finger pointing and that would be a major topic of conversation -- whether or not we had the right officials,” he said. “Hopefully in our opening game we’ll be winning by enough where it won’t matter.”

I suspect most veteran players would share those opinions. Gary Kubiak didn’t have anything to say on the topic today after his team’s OTA practice, but I believe he and his coaching colleagues will feel similarly too, even if they don't say so in order to avoid upsetting the league.

Officiating NFL games is tough work. For all those who clamor about the referees and their crews being bad, wait until you see how bad the alternatives could be.

Cushing said he thinks games with replacement crews could feature more flags and whistles.

“I think you’re going to have some officials who’ve never been on such a big stage as the NFL before who will be real tight and lenient with their calls, they’re probably going to want to make more calls than not,” he said. “If anything, I think it’s going to be a little more strict…

“You really might (develop a new appreciation for the old officials) especially if there are some completely overblown things…

“I think the best officials are the ones who will just let guys play. I think that’s what everyone wants, I think that’s what the players want. If there is an obvious penalty, that should be called. But for the most part, you talk to offense, defense, coaches or the fans, they just want to see a game really be penalty free.”