(CBS News) It was a rough week for the replacement officials. Several blown calls and lapses in rule book knowledge left players, coaches and fans flustered.
But the questions surrounding the competency of the officials are now extending to conflicts of interest. One ref got pulled from his Saints assignment after it was revealed he was a was on the team's payroll as a ref for their regular-season practices.. Another apparently worked a Seahawks game - even though he
And now Eagles running back LeSean McCoy has suggested that at least one replacement ref apparently has emotional - and perhaps financial - ties to the players he is officiating.
"I'll be honest, they're like fans," McCoy told CBS radio station 94WIP in Philadelphia. "One of the refs was talking about his fantasy team, like 'McCoy, come on, I need you for my fantasy,' ahhh, what?!"
The anecdote - if true - could be an innocuous joke. But the implications are no laughing matter. Fantasy football isn't exactly akin to gambling, but most fantasy leagues have cash payouts and an NFL official would certainly be in a prime position to influence a player's fantasy value.
McCoy, who spoke a day after Philadelphia's 24-23 win over Baltimore, also said 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?!'"
Both teams' players said the game was marred by poor officiating. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco called a late pass interference call "a little crazy" and Eagles QB Michael Vick said long delays reviewing 4th quarter plays added "extra stress."
Lewis put it more bluntly: "How much longer are we going to keep going through this whole process? I don't have the answer. I just know across the league teams and the league are being affected by it. It's not just this game, it's all across the league. And so if they want the league to have the same reputation it's always had, they'll address the problem. Get the regular referees in here and let the games play themselves out."