Fans of the NFL were the winners late Wednesday night when the NFL and the NFL Referees Association agreed to terms on a new eight-year Collective Bargaining Agreement. The official officials will be in action Thursday night when the Ravens host the Browns.
The "straw that broke the camel's back," as defensive end Jason Babin put it, regarding the replacement referees came on Monday night. Packers safety M.D. Jennings had an interception on the final play of the game in the end zone, but it was erroneously ruled a game-winning touchdown after Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate got his hands on the ball as the two players fell to the ground. There was conclusive evidence that showed Jennings had control of the ball first.
The outrage over the result caused an eruption on social media and it led to fans flooding the NFL offices with thousands of voicemails in protest. The Eagles did not have a bad or missed call that hurt them like the one that hurt the Packers, but the momentum of their games were disrupted by delays in coming up with the right call or figuring out where the ball was supposed to be spotted after a penalty.
"They were put in an awful position to try and come in and do that extremely well, as good a job as these guys have been doing for years," center Jason Kelce said. "I think for the integrity of the game and just for the continuity of a game in itself so it doesn't always get stopped, where's the ball going to be spotted? Is it a penalty or is it not a penalty? Are we accepting or declining a penalty? I think having the normal officials in there, just the players and coaches having that respect for their decisions will then lead to less arguments and less delay of the game."
With the replacement referees, players tried to push the envelope to see how much they could get away with. Defensive end Trent Cole actually thinks there will be a lot of penalties this week as the players re-adjust to the regular officials.
"It's going to be very different," Cole said. "Calls that were sliding are going to be called. There are going to be a lot of calls and it will probably be a long game. Guys are going to have to buckle up now."
As a defensive guy, Cole enjoyed that the replacement referees "let us play."
"You have to take advantage of everything," he said. "It's a game. If you get caught cheating at least you were trying."
Tight end Clay Harbor was glad that the Eagles won two of three games with the replacement referees, but the possibility of a monumental call being missed or blown always weighed on the players' minds.
"You try not to think about it, but there's always that possibility that they might miss a call or you might be hung out to dry," Harbor said. "They might not penalize something that could affect the health of the players. It's great to have them back. We know we've got the best referees in professional sports back now."
Fans will still likely argue over calls during the game. At least they know it's ones made by the real officials.
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