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Ravens' Bernard Pollard: Replacement refs 'not ready for this'

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Maybe it was the offensive pass-interference call on Jacoby Jones that cost the Baltimore Ravens a win. Maybe it was the near-brawls with the Philadelphia Eagles that seemed to be on the edge of erupting. Maybe it's an accumulation of both series of events.

Whatever it is, the frustration with the replacement officials is evident in the Ravens' locker room, as Sunday night's AFC Championship Game rematch with the New England Patriots looms.

"You gotta get those guys out of there," Ravens safety Bernard Pollard told on Wednesday. "I'm not gonna hold anything back -- you gotta get them out of there. This game's too fast, these guys are too smart. They're not ready for this. You look at the tussles, the fights, you look at the calls. They're horrendous.

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"I think for the NFL, for (Roger) Goodell and everybody else, (Goodell) needs to make a move. You've seen enough situations where he's jumped right in, he's tried to tackle it. He needs to get in and tackle this. It's not fair. The integrity of the league is at stake."

Quarterback Joe Flacco broached the integrity-of-the-game topic after the Ravens' loss Sunday. It was clear Wednesday that he wasn't alone in his thoughts.

"Like Joe said, there's an integrity part of this, they're not holding up to it," All-Pro safety Ed Reed said.

After Week 1, the league said "congratulations on a successful Week 1" to replacement officials in its internal review but added: "Remember: The expectation is for continuous improvement every week." There were some less-than-flattering moments in Week 2.

Some of the missteps have been obvious. But players also are alert to the fact that they can get away with more.

"Guys are crafty, man," Pollard said. "And so when you got a crew that's coming in and you know they don't call certain things, we as defenses, we as offenses, we understand, 'If we do this, they're not gonna see that.' Because they're not trained to, these guys aren't trained to. The other refs are trained to understand it, they're trained to see it. Yes, they make bad calls. But now, you've got guys who've been in lingerie leagues."

The Ravens' chief concern in lodging these complaints is trying to avoid sounding bitter, simply because they lost to the Eagles. As Pollard said, "We should've just handled our business." The fights, they say, provided the most vivid illustration of how games can quickly spin out of control.

"These guys, the preseason wasn't enough. They have no experience in that kind of justice," running back Ray Rice said. "That's the emotion of the game, but I think the other refs would've had it under control a lot faster. I think, obviously, when you get it under control, you get the warnings out, then it's gonna stop. I don't think there were any warnings this time -- 'Don't do this or we're gonna flag you.' "

Rice was quick to emphasize he didn't want to blame the replacement officials because he didn't see the issue as their fault. He and the other Ravens players seem to just want the dispute to be over.

The NFL and NFL Referees Association haven't had a negotiating session since Sept. 1, and that last-ditch effort followed six weeks of additional silence between the parties.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer.

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