NFL to teams: Stop berating replacement refs

Head Coach John Fox of the Denver Broncos yells at back judge Terrence Miles (111) during their game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on September 17, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

(CBS/AP) NEW YORK - The NFL has warned teams that it won't tolerate confrontational behavior toward replacement officials.

NFL.com said on Thursday night that senior league officials called owners, general managers and coaches from all 32 teams to tell them that respect for the game demands better on-field behavior.

NFL executive vice president Ray Anderson singled out Monday night's game for having examples of "unacceptable behavior."

He didn't specify which incidents in the Atlanta Falcons' victory over Denver crossed the line, but Broncos coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio both had heated arguments with officials.

Anderson said, "We're not going to tolerate it."

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the last time the NFL issued such a stern league-wide warning during the season was in October 2010 when there was a spate of helmet-to-helmet hits on unsuspecting receivers.

While outrage among players, coaches and fans grows over questionable calls and non-calls by the replacement officials, one sports business expert told CBSNews.com that the NFL hasn't exactly suffered yet.

"It's certainly not keeping anyone from watching the games," said Scott Minto, the director of San Diego State University's Sports Business MBA program. "I think we haven't seen anything yet that's so egregious that people will start to turn away."

However, Minto cautioned that one of the criticisms of the replacements - that they are letting players get away with rough play and borderline cheap shots - has the potential to be a serious problem for the league.

Minto said if a player were to get injured due to lax officiating, then the NFL "is going to have a real black eye on their hands."

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy said on Monday that he thought the replacement officials were being intimidated by the players.

"During the game, they made like a bad call or something, the ref, and I see (Ravens linebacker) Ray Lewis like pump his chest up, trying to scare him. Don't you know [the ref] started stuttering? I'm like 'what's this?!'"

Anderson said flags, fines and suspensions are possible for coaches or players who crossed the line.

The NFL locked out the regular officials in June and contract negotiations have broken down.

The Monday night game, typically a showcase for the NFL, turned into something of a sideshow, explained CBS News' Jeff Glor, in a report that aired Thursday on "CBS This Morning."

What NFL replacement ref mistakes mean for lockout, league

Jerry Markbriet spent 23 years officiating in the NFL and spoke out about the recent events. He said, "It's a crime to let them officiate these games. The league says they are a doing a good job and they'll get better every week. My personal opinion is they will not get better -- every week they'll get worse."

On Monday, two weeks into the NFL's referee lockout, replacement officials were marking off obviously incorrect yardage, missing turnovers, and causing extreme delays.

That, after a slew of mishaps on Sunday: the clock running at the wrong time in a Bengals-Browns game, phantom pass interferences in a Steelers-Jets game, and one official pulled from a game at the last minute when it was discovered he was a New Orleans Saints fan about to referee a Saints game.

The league released a statement to CBS News saying: "Officiating is never perfect. The current officials have made great strides and are performing admirably under unprecedented scrutiny and great pressure."