A lot of people may not realize it, but the NFL actually has separate balls for kicking and passing. Quarterbacks do not throw the same footballs that kickers and punters kick and vice versa. Casual fans watching at home have no reason to know the difference, but one might think this information would be important for the officials, right? Not the replacement refs, of course.
During a recent interview with 95.7 The Game in San Francisco, Raiders punter Shane Lechler talked about some of the issues that went along with playing in a game that was being called by replacement officials. It turns out punters are not exempt from the frustration.
“My first punt down in Miami, if you were watching the game, of course I saw it because on the first punt of the game, the (ref) refused to put the kicking ball in the game,” Lechler explained. “Then you go and kick a quarterback ball, with me being the punter, you only touch the ball for about a second. There’s no way to know. I tried to hit the punter’s ball and all throughout the pre-game I hit that ball to the 10, 8-yard line and I hit that quarterback ball and you know they are not nearly as good as the kicker’s ball. The ball went through the 25-yard line and I went down there and got the ball.
“I explained to the refs, ‘Can you guys just at least show enough respect to get the kicking ball?’ The (replacement ref) looked dead at me and goes, ‘Dude, does it really matter?’ I had a lot of choice words for him after that. … That’s like trying to kick a spiral with a pencil. It’s impossible.”
When you’re used to kicking a ball that is inflated differently and shaped slightly differently, it does make a difference. An error like that isn’t really on the same level as blowing a call on a Hail Mary to end the game or giving a team an extra timeout, but it just goes to show you that the replacements officials were capable of even giving punters headaches.
Thanks to Sports Radio Interviews for transcribing the quotes