During the preseason, there has been a phantom touchback call, a penalty announced against the wrong team and multiple other blunders by replacement refs.

But hey, everyone makes mistakes, and these guys have never been in a position like this. Plus, every screwup brings to light the urgency for the NFL Referees Association and the league to come to some resolution.

But the possibility of having these replacement refs when games actually matter essentially became a reality Wednesday when league executive Ray Anderson told the 32 teams that negotiations remain at a standstill and replacements will be on the field for Wednesday night's season opener between the Giants and Cowboys.

The way last year's lockout ended just in time to salvage the entire regular-season schedule brought false hope that a deal with the referees union would be met in similar deadline fashion.

But that doesn't seem to be happening. While the refs' mishaps may have been amusing the past month, the joke is over, and the integrity of the league may be in jeopardy.

- Jeffrey Tomik