Avant: Replacement Refs Clash with Safety Focus

"This league is all about, our commissioner is all about player safety," Jason Avant said. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)

The Eagles began preparing in earnest Wednesday to play the season opener Sunday in Cleveland, with only wideout Riley Cooper (collarbone) and safety/special teams whiz Colt Anderson (knee) ruled out.

Because the NFL and its referees have been unable to agree on a contract, this week's games will be manned by replacement refs, mostly from small college ball, since the BCS-level refs have declined to participate.

"This league is all about, our commissioner is all about player safety," Eagles wideout Jason Avant said Wednesday. "With the deal not being done, there's a definite compromise, kind of an oxymoron, so to speak, when it comes to player safety, with the refs not being there. A lot of guys are kind of concerned about it. That's a big deal for us, as far as player safety. Around the locker room, everyone talks about it, all the players know about it. There are some things that are going to get called, some things that are not going to be called ... you know what things you can get away with, with these refs that we have, so guys are going to kind of like, cheat this week.

"I play the inside position a lot. Even with the regular officials, that's the most noncalls in the league, [on] the inside. With that being said, it's going to be hard for guys who are not accustomed to making those calls to be able to see those calls. I'm not concerned about it; I just have to do a little pushing off myself." 

Eagles coach Andy Reid, never one to court controversy, took his typical approach when asked about the refs.

"I think they'll be under the gun," Reid said. "People are asking about 'em and watching 'em probably more than any officials have been watched in the past ... They'll do their thing. I think we're making sure all of us -- coaches, players, and they're part of the game -- make sure we're all doing our jobs to the best of our abilities."

Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins gave a deep sigh when asked about the referees.

"It's definitely weird," he said. "You just wonder to what level of training there has been going on. With all the big focus on safety and everything in the league, to have people out there who haven't spent the time preparing for what to watch and what to look for, are you really putting people in the best situations, healthwise or things like that? That's probably your biggest concern. You tread lightly when answering that. I try not to have a letter [announcing a league fine] in my locker the next couple of days."


Reid confirmed that Nick Foles is Mike Vick's principal backup for the opener.


Starting safety Nate Allen said his ailing hamstring is fine and he is eager to show he can be healthy and consistent.


Jason Avant on Michael Vick: "I don't believe that he's injury-prone at all. I believe some guys have gotten good shots on him. If you take a lot of shots, you're going to get hurt. That's with any position. For this first game, we hope he comes out with the right mindset, not worrying about any of those things, because those things are not true, they only become true if he believes them. We expect him to play well, and this team needs him to play well.



In today's story about Eagles brothers Dallas and Matt Reynolds, I meant to include a graphic listing previous Eagles brother combos. There were Shawn and Stacy Andrews in 2009, though Shawn went on IR and never actually played a regular season game with Stacy. There were the two Detmers, Ty and Koy, in 1997, but again, like with the Andrews brothers, the Detmers didn't play together; Koy was on IR. And there were Steve and Ebert Van Buren in 1951.