When the NFL began its 2012 season last week, the regular crew of referees were not in charge of officiating the games. The NFL Referees Association and the National Football League cannot agree on money (as usual in any lockout) but it didn't seem like a big deal. When Joe Flacco came out with strongly-worded comments condemning the NFL for moving forward with the replacement refs as opposed to hammering out a deal with the old guard, the news was largely met with silence, if not outright scorn. Flacco was just upset, said the contrarians, because his team lost.
However, Steve Young broke it down even further post-game on Monday night, claiming that the NFL knows there is nothing that can happen that will diminish America's desire for football: "The bottom line is they [the NFL] don't care."
Tuesday, ESPN's front page was littered with articles adding on to the dogpile that is now consuming the NFL.
A running back for the Eagles is even claiming that a replacement ref told him directly that the ref needed the player, LeSean McCoy for his fantasy league.
None of this is good press for the NFL, which will see Young's comments played out very publicly over this week. If they stand pat, they run the risk of confirming what he said. If they rush out of the gates in an attempt to convey their concern for both player safety and the integrity of the game that Flacco spoke of, they run the risk of appearing weak with the locked-out refs.
The turning point might have been the Ravens' lost in Philadelphia, which prompted those comments from Baltimore quarterback Flacco.
The turning point, however, does not mean that this matter has passed the point of no return. The choices the NFL makes this week, in regards to the money they will or won't pay their old refs, will be reflected one way or another in the games this weekend. And if we reach a point where it seems the replacement refs actually do decide a game, that point of no return will arrive, and Young's words will have their veracity tested.