METAIRIE, La. – It’s not that New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith was exceedingly happy to see the NFL’s lockout of the referees end.
But he’s certainly not sad to see the replacement officials go.
“It’s always good to have the experts back at work,” Smith said. “I thought the old officials, I thought they did good pending the circumstances. I think it’s going to be good for player safety that we have the right officials in.”
Most in the Saints’ locker room expressed similar feelings Thursday, basically thanking the replacement officials for doing the best they could under difficult times.
Those officials came from lower levels of college football or the high school game, vastly overmatched by the speed of the NFL game.
Their inconsistency was one of New Orleans safety Roman Harper’s main complaints.
“If you’re going to call it one way, you’ve got to call it both ways,” Harper said. “We don’t need any indecision. When you’ve got to challenge the play all the time, it kind of takes away from the game, takes away from the rhythm and the flow of the game.”
Harper pointed to at least two instances the replacement officials hurt the Saints, including one penalty against him in the Washington game that he’s still confused about.
“Each game it seems like we had a play that could have affected (the outcome) and could have went both ways and really was momentum wise,” Harper said. “You had last week clearly the tackle almost tackled Martez Wilson on the long run but nobody wants to talk about that. First week against Washington, the pass interference call against me. I turned around. I played the ball. I don’t know what I was supposed to do differently.
“That’s a big call. It goes from our ball on the 35 or so and we get the momentum to now they’ve got the ball on the 1-yard line and they punch it in next play. All those things count.”
Though receiver Devery Henderson said there were missed calls by the officials, he’s still grateful they were on the job when they were.
“I’m happy they got it all figured out,” Henderson said. “The guys, they tried their best to do their job. The real officials, eventually we figured they would come back.”