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AS IN exhibitions, only minor glitches with officials

Updated:
Early in Sunday's Seattle-Cleveland game, replacement referee Bill Etzler inadvertently left his microphone on when he consulted umpire Wes Fritz about a call.

``Clock runs, right Wes?'' Etzler asked Fritz after Seattle completed a 4-yard pass.

In Cincinnati, referee John Smith announced after a challenge to a call by Bengals coach Dick LeBeau: ``The question was, was the runner down behind the line of gain?''

As was the case last week when the replacements were brought in to work the final exhibition games, there was little controversy as he officials filled in for locked-out regulars. Replacement officials' calls were mostly correct and there were few disputes.

``I thought they did a great job,'' said wide receiver Eric Moulds of Buffalo, which lost 24-6 to New Orleans. ``I really wasn't worried about what they were doing. From what I could see, they made some good calls. They're going to be rusty a little bit, because they're replacement officials. But overall, I thought they did a great job today.

The most controversial came in Oakland's 27-24 victory in Kansas City, which Tom Condon, the negotiator for the locked-out regulars attended and called, ``the most poorly officiated professional football game I've ever seen.''

Late in the first half, Oakland's Charlie Garner made a great catch near the sideline as Jerome Woods slammed him out of bounds on a play that was first ruled a 27-yard gain.

But the call was reversed upon review when referee Randall Beesley decided the tackle did not cause both of Garner's feet to go out of bounds. A furious Tim Brown then drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty, all of which resulted in the Raiders having third-and-17 from their own 46 instead of first-and-10 from the Kansas City 12, and helped the Chiefs take a 14-6 lead into halftime.

But the Raiders' win made the call moot, although Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon said the officials missed numerous calls _ ``intentional grounding, delay of game, a lot of stuff _ and I mean on us.'' Gannon later noted that Condon is his agent.

There was a key non-call in the Rams-Eagles game when St. Louis' Ryan Tucker appeared to tackle Brandon Whiting as he was rushing Kurt Warner but no flag was thrown. That allowed Warner time to complete a 21-yard pass on third-and-18 on a drive that eventually ended up with a Rams' field goal.

More common were comments from players like New England wide receiver Troy Brown.

``There were close calls, but we can't blame the refs,'' Brown said. ``It wasn't the refs' fault that we didn't get started until the fourth quarter.''

Several of the glitches, as the one in Cleveland, came from college officials not used to NFL rules.

In Green Bay, for example, there were nine penalties called in the Packers' victory over the Lions. On none did referee Aster Sizemore announce the number of the offending player.

``I think it's from college days when we didn't have to recognize them that much,'' he said. ``I think we did end up getting some of the names and numbers afterwards.''

Sizemore, a retired Southeastern Conference official also apparently incorrectly invoked a college rule that differs from the NFL.

After Bernardo Harris recovered Lions quarterback Charlie Batch's fumble, the defender got up without being touched and ran into the end zone. But was ruled down at the spot he recovered. Green Bay won the game 28-6, so the miscall hardly mattered.

In New Orleans' 24-6 win in Buffalo, the officials marked off several penalties a yard short. But again, it didn't matter.

Nor did what happened at the start of Tampa Bay's 10-6 win over Dallas, where the officials staged the coin toss, unaware that they were supposed to wait for President Bush to do it live on the screen for all 10 early games.

Didn't matter.

Both coins came up tails.
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