The NFL owners and players reached labor peace a little over a year ago and all is good between them for the most part now and in the near future. The same can't be said for the officials, as the league and referees are at a labor impasse over a new contract.
The league has said they are underway in training replacement refs, which could either be just a bargaining chip for additional leverage or a reality as we get closer to the season. Replacement refs would come from the arena league and retired college officials, as current ones would not cross the "picket lines" and risk their current jobs once the "real" refs ultimately return.
Veteran NFL referee Mike Carey vented his opinion in a story on the National Football Post, saying:
"You just don't walk out on a field and contend with that speed and size and impact and the complexity of the NFL rules. It's a completely different game."
One could imagine so many difficult scenarios the replacement refs would face. Would they be confident enough to throw a yellow flag at a key point late in the game, fearing confrontation with a player or coach? Will they even know the intricacies of the specific NFL rules?