Kiwi and Tuck worried refs jeopardize safety

Justin Tuck is afraid the use of replacement refs could lead to serious injuries for NFL players. Noah K. Murray/US Presswire

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –- Mathias Kiwanuka and Justin Tuck are concerned that the safety of players will be jeopardized by the replacement officials.

“There’s no doubt the integrity of the game has been compromised not having the regular officials out there,” Kiwanuka said. “We don’t know what’s actually on the table, what’s being said in meetings, so I can’t pick a side either way and say ‘One side is right, one side is wrong.’ All I know is that we would all benefit from having the regular refs out there.

“That’s not to take a shot at the guys who are out there,” Kiwanuka said. “They’re doing as good a job as they can, because it takes years to perfect the skill of being an NFL ref. When you look around at some of the calls being missed, player safety is the big issue.”

Both Kiwanuka and Tuck said they understand the replacement officials have been placed in a tough predicament. Tuck is not upset about replacement officials missing calls but he is worried about safety being compromised.

And Tuck wishes the NFL would take care of a situation that has the potential to get worse.

“I am not necessarily mad at the replacement officials,” Tuck said. “I am more upset with the NFL for not handling this and taking care of this in due time I guess. I think the replacement officials are doing their best in a very sticky situation for them and you got to go out and play the game.”

“The regular guys, when they get back, they are going to miss some calls too,” Tuck later added. “Us as athletes, we always try to figure out a way to cry and whine about something but we just got to go out there and play the game.”

Safety Kenny Phillips says he has seen secondary players taking advantage of pass interference not being called as much.

"Some guys are," Phillips said when asked if secondary players are taking liberties. "I saw in our game a guy basically walk Victor Cruz like he was a dog. He had his jersey the whole way up the field and they didn’t call anything. You just never know. ... It was bad."

Kiwanuka and Tuck see the potential for injury all over the field whenever a call is missed.

“Player safety,” Kiwanuka said. “Rule No. 1. That I think has to be the most important thing. I don’t think you can levy tens of thousands of dollars, maybe even hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines in a week against players talking about ‘player safety this, player safety that’ and not have it be officials who can account for it. Because we’re human at the end of the day and if you let people get away with stuff they’re going to continue to do it.

“Now a holding call being missed here and there, that’s not a big deal,” Kiwanuka said. “But when you talk about players getting hit and that not being called after the emphasis they put on concussions, I don’t think that is OK.”

Tuck does sympathize with the replacement referees that are trying in a tough situation.

“They didn’t ask to be thrown into that predicament,” Tuck said. “It is a tough job. Even the regular guys miss calls. There is a lot of pressure on those guys so I am not going to sit here and criticize.”

“I think all the success that this league is having, you don’t want this to be a damper,” Tuck said. “You don’t want coming off the season that we had last year and the season before that, as far as ratings and excitement for the season to start. ... I think the replacement referee situation can start to put a damper on the league in some way.”