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NFL notebook: Furor over replacement refs reaches fever pitch

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Sept. 24 2012 7:24 p.m. MDT

"Unfortunately, I feel like that it's like changing an intersection from a stop sign to a red light," Browns kicker Phil Dawson said. "You have to have so many car wrecks before they deem that intersection to be dangerous enough — and we're heading that way. Someone's going to lose a game, if it hasn't already happened, to get both sides to a pressure point to get a deal done. It's sad."

Certainly not holding back on the criticism are some of the NFL's broadcast partners. Analyst Cris Collinsworth was forthright in his evaluation of the officiating problems Sunday night, as were Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden during last Monday night's flag-fest in Atlanta.

"We don't want to talk about the officials, trust us," ESPN's Tirico said. "But it's affecting the game. When we meet with teams and coordinators, frustration boils out into limited on-the-record statements. Off the record, what guys are saying — it's a nightmare. It is impacting the game.

"It hasn't burned a team to cost them a playoff spot yet. But you should go back and watch the film. There are so many little things that players are getting away with that is absolutely impacting the game to the detriment of the product."

Yet some players aren't completely down on the performances of the replacements.

Patriots receiver Deion Branch noted all the controversy about officiating throughout the league.

"But I think the bigger picture is that we've all got to understand that, hey, they're making those calls on both sides of the ball," Branch said. "Us as players, we need to remove ourselves from what the refs are doing and just go out and play our game."

Rams defensive end Chris Long offered, apparently with no sarcasm, that the game "hasn't changed at all with the replacement officials because officials don't care about defensive linemen, replacement or first-tier officials."

Then he admitted taking the regular officials for granted.

"The NFL could really use them back," Long said.

NFL SEEKING TO BLOCK VILMA'S REQUEST: A federal magistrate has ordered attorneys for the NFL and Jonathan Vilma to hold a status conference on Thursday to discuss the league's efforts to block Vilma's demands for evidence in the NFL's bounty investigation of the Saints.

The NFL filed a motion on Monday arguing that attempts to initiate discovery are premature because another motion to dismiss Vilma's defamation lawsuit against Commissioner Roger Goodell is still pending.

The league's motion says Vilma's lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, has this month subpoenaed the NFL, Goodell, NFL investigator Joe Hummel, former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and former Saints assistant Mike Cerullo.

Ginsberg has demanded documents and sought to schedule depositions, including a deposition of Goodell on Oct. 23.

Vilma's lawsuit alleges Goodell publicly prejudged Vilma in the bounty probe without sufficient evidence.

HEYWARD-BEY RELEASED FROM HOSPITAL: Oakland Raiders receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey has been released from the hospital after being knocked out by a helmet-to-helmet hit.

The Raiders say Heyward-Bey went home Monday morning after spending the night in the hospital under observation. The team says he has a concussion and neck strain and is expected to make a full recovery.

Heyward-Bey was running across the end zone early in the fourth quarter of Oakland's 34-31 victory to catch a pass from Carson Palmer when Pittsburgh safety Ryan Mundy launched his body and lowered his helmet into Heyward-Bey's facemask.

JETS' REVIS LIKELY TO MISS SEASON WITH TORN ACL: The NFL's top shutdown cornerback will likely be shut down for the season.

Darrelle Revis has a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that will require surgery, a huge blow for the New York Jets that leaves coach Rex Ryan without his best defensive player.

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