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Saturday, October 18, 2008
Black and Blue all over: Officials fight back


Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher was one of at least two NFL players who were fined $20,000 for verbally abusing officials during a game last weekend. (St. Louis center Richie Incognito was the other. Denver cornerback Dre Bly, meanwhile, was fined $20,000 for criticizing officials in media interviews.)

Urlacher and Incognito were both penalized 15 yards during the game, but it's somewhat jarring to know a player can be fined more for showing disrespect to an official that he can be for tackling a player by his facemask -- which could cause serious injury. And because there are only a handful of people who can hear what the abusing player said, officials obviously get a high level of discretion.

NFL officials receive constant abuse from coaches and players, most of which goes unnoticed publicly because the audio isn't captured for television broadcasts. And we can't say for sure that these fines represent a new trend because the NFL only publicizes them when asked specifically by media members.

All that said, it's hard not to draw a connection between the fines and a series of high-profile officiating gaffes we've witnessed this season. Officials have a tough job, and perhaps the NFL is giving them a little cover right now.

On to the rest of the NFC North on this Saturday morning: