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Officially, it's getting to be a mess


Officially, it's getting to be a mess

The regular season is about a month away, and theres no end in sight to the NFLs two-month old lockout of its officials.In fact, as of Wednesday, no new bargaining sessions were on the schedule, according to the president of the NFL referees association, Scott Green.Time is running out and the missteps made by replacement referees are piling up.Just take Thursdays preseason opener between the Redskins and Bills.Late in the first quarter, the Redskins were awarded a touchback before the call was eventually reversed. Replay showed it wasnt even close the Bills had downed the ball inside the 5-yard line. The officiating crew was roundly booed by the fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium.What theyve ended up doing is getting a lot of Division II and Division III officials, Green said in an interview Wednesday. Some have Arena football experience. But the speed of the game is just so different.Even in my rookie year, I was surrounded by six veteran officials on the field, he continued. To think you can take seven folks with that kind of experience and put them out onto an NFL field and have them work a ballgame has got to be unsettling to the players and the coaches and the fans.According to the Associated Press, the blown touchback ruling wasnt all the officials got wrong.There was another miscue at the end of the first half, when the Redskins offense was penalized for delay of game with 5 seconds left and Washington out of timeouts, the AP reported. Referee David Scott marched off the 5-yard penalty to prepare for the next play, when Bills Coach Chan Gailey had a brief conversation with line judge Rondell Taylor at the sideline.Taylor quickly ran over to the referee, and Scott announced the half was over because, under NFL rules, 10 seconds had to be run off the clock because the penalty occurred in the final two minutes of a half.The rule book calls for the 10-second runoff for some violations in the last minute of a half but delay of game is not on that list.The problems are only going to become more pronounced once the games count, Green said.When the bell rings for the regular season, even if the replacements get through the preseason, its a whole different ball game opening day, he said. When Dallas and New York take the field for that opening game, to think you have seven replacement officials working that game, its kind of scary.Green said missed calls and misapplied rules also cut to one of the core principals of any professional game: its integrity.Potentially integrity is a big issue, Green said. What a lot of folks dont focus on is our rules are very different inside five minutes, inside two minutes, even inside of a minute, they change.Examples of questionable calls abounded Thursday. Another came on the games only touchdown. Why wasnt Redskins Pierre Garon flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct when he somersaulted into the end zone? A more experienced referee probably would have whistled Garon.To go get a bunch of folks and train them in classes for six weeks and then expect them to enforce the rules and penalties, thats going to be an issue, Green said.The lockout, of course, is about money. In particular, its over officials salaries and their pension plan.Green said he doesnt understand why the league and the 9.4 billion in revenue it generated in 2011 has been so inflexible when it comes to the officials bargaining position.In NFL terms, when youre talking about 9.4 billion. That billion with a B. Its kind of crazy, Green said. Were not talking 1-percent of those revenues. Were talking about one-third of 1-percent of those revenues. Thats what would cover this deal, 100,000 per team. And were still locked out.

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Safety

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Safety

Training camp opens in three days, and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope. Between now and the start of camp, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.


Additions: Troy Apke (drafted in the fourth round)
Departures: DeAngelo Hall (not re-signed)

Starters: D.J. Swearinger, Montae Nicholson
Other roster locks: Apke
On the bubble: Deshazor Everett, Fish Smithson

How the safeties compare

To the rest of the NFL: The Redskins’ safeties have been a sore spot ever since the tragic loss of Sean Taylor in 2007, continually ranking as the worst units in the league year after year. That started to change last year with the signing of Swearinger and the drafting of Nicholson. They were major contributors to one of the league’s better defenses until injuries struck. Their depth is questionable as will be discussed below but the Redskins have a solid safety tandem at the top of the depth chart if they stay healthy. 

To the 2017 Redskins: This depends on Nicholson’s health and how quickly Apke can get ready to contribute. The rookie’s speed could add a dimension that the defensive backfield doesn’t have but he has a lot of rough edges to smooth out. If he can round into form and play in some three-safety formations, the unit could be notably better than last year’s. 

2018 outlook

Biggest upside: By now, most of you have heard of Jay Gruden saying that Nicholson is the defensive equivalent of Jordan Reed because he changes what they can do when he is out there. His speed and tackling set him apart when he is out there. But there are legitimate concerns about his ability to stay on the field after a shoulder injury and a concussion kept him out of half of the games last year. If he can play, Nicholson has Pro Bowl potential. 

Most to prove: The Redskins are Swearinger’s fourth NFL team in five years in the NFL. He was cut by the Texans and the Bucs. The Cardinals put him on their practice squad for a week during the season before promoting him to the 53-man roster. Arizona made little effort to retain him when he became a free agent last year. Swearinger played well in Washington last year but he didn’t get much recognition. He wants to take the next step and show the teams that let him go that they made a big mistake. 

Rookie watch: We touched on Apke above. Some questioned the draft pick, which seemed to be based on the combine stopwatch that measured his 4.34 time in the 40. If Nicholson is healthy, Apke’s development will be an interesting side story. Should one of the starters miss multiple games, his ability to perform in the NFL will be critical. 

Bottom line:  There will be a lot of competition behind the starters. Apke seems safe because of his status as a fourth-round pick. The team values Everett as a special teams contributor and he started eight games last year. They also like Smithson and they brought him up to the 53-man roster late last year to make sure they could retain his rights. And Quin Blanding, an undrafted rookie who had a stellar career at Virginia, could work himself into the conversation for a roster spot if he performs in Richmond. If Nicholson plays, the outlook at safety could be much better in 2018 than it has been in over a decade. 


Gruden’s quote on Nicholson’s effect on the defense:

Montae I think is really an important piece. Very similar to the way Jordan Reed is on offense, Montae is on defense. He can cover so much ground.

2018 position outlook series

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler


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Looking for a free burger? Sit close to Redskins QB Alex Smith


Looking for a free burger? Sit close to Redskins QB Alex Smith

Pro tip: If you see new Redskins quarterback Alex Smith in a restaurant, try to sit close by.

Talk to teammates and media from San Francisco or Kansas City, the two cities Smith played in before coming to Washington, and stories like this emerge. His reputation for generosity and random kindness is as consistent as his ability to move the football with his legs and not throw many interceptions.

His foundation is heralded as one of the best in the NFL, where more than 90 percent of funds raised actually go towards charity, significantly higher than the national average. Once traded from Kansas City, Smith wrote a letter on The Player's Tribune thanking fans:

Thank you to the Chiefs Kingdom for being some of the craziest, most dedicated fans in the country. And thank you to the Kansas City community and all the friends my family and I have made during our time with you. To see all the farewell donations that have been made to the Alex Smith Foundation — all in increments of 11 — has been really special. It’s a tremendous gesture that my family and I have been very touched by. We appreciate you. We’re better people because we were fortunate enough to spend the last five years with you.

So what might have Smith ordered at Bareburger DC? Let's take a guess from their online menu. 

  • The Buckaroo - Beef, aged cheddar, smoked brisket, wild mushrooms, smoke sauce, brioche bun - After spending a few years in Kansas City, Smith might have acquired the taste for brisket on burgers. Who knows.

  • El Matador - Beef, queso fresco, guacamole, spicy pico de gallo, pickled jalapeños, green leaf, brioche bun - Smith is a SoCal kid, so maybe he needed the guac and bold flavors of his youth. 

  • Impossible Burger - American cheese, caramelized onions, dill pickles, green leaf, special sauce, brioche bun -The Redskins mission is getting to the playoffs, and many oddsmakers view that as impossible. Maybe Alex wanted to embrace it?

  • So Cal - Turkey, aged cheddar, guacamole, pickled red onions, alfalfa, sprout bun - Again, Smith is from Southern California, and this burger sounds pretty healthy. You don't get to look like this picture below by eating too many Buckaroos. 

Here's the truth: Smith is cool and bought a bunch of random people dinner. What's cooler: He doesn't have or use social media to broadcast when he does random nice acts. 

This week he and the Redskins travel to Richmond for training camp, and things will get serious about football and the 2018 season. Enjoy the fun stuff for now. 



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