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Bill Belichick goes off script on replacement officials

New Orleans Saints v New England Patriots

FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 9: Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots, reacts to an official’s call during a game against the Orleans Saints in the first half at Gillette Stadium on August 9, 2012 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

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The NFL has provided the 32 teams with suggested talking points regarding the replacement officials. The memo says nothing about expressing agreement with the opinions of former V.P. of officiating Mike Pereira, who has been (to put it mildly) a thorn in the league’s side during this process.

Enter Pats coach Bill Belichick. After Thursday night’s preseason opener against the Saints, Belichick made it clear that he defers to Pereira on these matters.

“I think Mike Pereira has made his comments on the officials,” Belichick said. “I don’t know who knows more about NFL officiating than Mike Pereira, so we’ll leave it to him. I’m just trying to coach our team and get our team better. I’m not worried about what everybody else is doing; it’s not my job.”

Pereira has said that the use of replacement officials undermines the integrity of the game. By expressly agreeing with Pereira, Belichick believes that the use of replacement officials undermines the integrity of the game.

Pereira also has said that the league is embellishing the credentials of the replacement officials, and that Shannon Eastin, the first female to officiate an NFL game, would not have been approved under normal procedures due to her participation in the 2007 World Series of Poker.

So, basically, Belichick has given the league office the finger, in passive-aggressive fashion.

That said, it’s hard to disagree with him. Pereira knows as much as anyone about officiating. His concerns should be taken seriously.

It remains to be seen whether other coaches will muster the nerve to agree with Belichick.

Strategically, they’d be wise to do so. Eventually, the locked-out officials will be back, and it will be impossible for them to complete ignore who had their backs -- and who didn’t -- when making close calls in real time.