It's something that some of us feared, and some of us ignored. According to Adam Schefter, replacement referees are lined up to officiate Sunday Night's Hall of Fame game, the first preseason game of 2012.
The simple fact that replacement officials will actually be taking the field should be somewhat daunting for members of the NFLRA.
It is league policy for the names of the officials working a given game to be made available at the game, and it appears that the NFL will not be making those names available any sooner than they have to.
The lockout of NFL referees is unfortunate, but the it was easy to predict that replacement officials would likely be used when the lockout began in early June.
Unlike the NFLPA, the NFLRA has little to no actual leverage against the NFL. Yes, the NFL could use replacement players, but the on-field product would be compromised significantly by doing so.
On the other hand, the NFL can use replacement officials without significantly altering the game. Sure, conferences between officials may become more frequent, and there may be a greater amount of missed calls that infuriate the fans, but the game will remain largely the same.
If nothing else, the use of replacement officials gives sports analysts one more thing to watch during the long preseason weeks leading up to the start of the regular season. The looming deadline for striking a deal between the NFLRA and the NFL comes in early September, when the NFL has to start preparing to use replacement officials in regular season games. Stay tuned.