ALBANY -- Victor Cruz has a lot to lose this season. He has yet to sign a long-term contract, so any injury during the 2012 season will have a serious impact on his future, not to mention his future paychecks. And now, as if playing football isn't inherently dangerous enough, Cruz apparently has to consider that replacement officials could lose control of the games.
He already saw a glimpse of that firsthand in Jacksonville on Friday night. Teammates Jerrel Jernigan and Isaiah Stanback were mugged on passes into the end zone but did not draw pass-interference penalties against the Jaguars. Neither was hurt, but that doesn't mean someone won't be.
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Cruz said he is worried about "being out there as a player and wanting to be protected as far as calls go and wanting to be protected as far as non-calls go. It definitely goes both ways. We just want to make sure that they have the best interests of the players and the league at heart."
Friday's game was filled with officiating miscues, including the missed pass-interference calls. The most blatant was giving the Giants an extra snap at the end of the game and a chance to score the go-ahead points when time should have run out because of a 10-second runoff for an illegal forward pass.
Tom Coughlin, a stickler for details, was asked about that call Saturday. "Let's not get too technical here," he said, apparently cutting the replacement officials some slack.
But clearly not everyone is as patient.
"They were just kind of just trying to make the best calls they could make," Cruz said. "Sometimes you could see them being a little flustered at times. It's just tricky. It's obviously tough for them because they have to get adjusted on the fly to refereeing NFL games, and it's tough for them as well. It's by far a tough job for them. But we just want to make sure that as players, we're protected as well."
Cruz said he heard that one of the officials working Friday's game in Jacksonville said his experience came from officiating "glorified high school games."
"I don't even know what that means, essentially," Cruz said.
Jernigan, who had his right arm pinned down by William Middleton while trying to make a one-handed catch in the end zone with his left hand, said he was frustrated by the non-call.
"When you get up, you're trying to look for a flag and don't see one," Jernigan said.
There were some minor slip-ups, too, such as a holding penalty against Jayron Hosley, who was flagged while returning a punt. And when former Giant Aaron Ross hit Eli Manning in the back of the helmet, the officials called it face-masking on Ross, even though the facemask clearly is on the front of Manning's helmet.
"Obviously, you hope to have the guys who have worked hard and earned the spots to be an NFL official," Manning said. "But if it doesn't get worked out, then we just have to worry about doing our business."
Someone's business could be altered dramatically if the replacement officials lose control of the game, though.
Cruz doesn't want it to be him. He said when the regular officials return from the lockout -- assuming they do -- he'll shake their hands and tell them how much they are appreciated.