The excruciating NFL referee lockout of 2012 is finally over, and football fanatics everywhere are rejoicing.
The NFL has officially announced the end of the referee lockout:
NFL, referees reach agreement: on.nfl.com/SidesAgree— NFL (@nfl) September 27, 2012
UPDATE: September 27th at 12:30 a.m. ET
The NFL and NFLRA have issued a joint statement on the referee lockout officially ending:
“Our officials will be back on the field starting tomorrow night,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said. “We appreciate the commitment of the NFLRA in working through the issues to reach this important agreement.”
“Our Board of Directors has unanimously approved taking this proposed CBA to the membership for a ratification vote,” said Scott Green, president of the NFLRA. “We are glad to be getting back on the field for this week’s games.”
---End of Update---
The lockout ends just in time for Thursday Night football, where we will finally get to see the regular refs back in action.
After the numerous issues with the replacement officials came to a head on primetime television during a Monday Night Football contest between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, it was inevitable that the league would hastily strike an agreement to bring back their regular referees.
However, just because the scabs are now gone, that does not mean that the quality of officiating will markedly improve in an instantaneous manner.
Remember, these gentleman have not officiated an NFL game over the course of the entire offseason, four weeks of preseason and THREE regular season contests. Many have not worked since Week 17 of the 2011 campaign, which was nearly eight months ago.
When the zebras finally pull their familiar stripes from the closet and strap those dusty whistles around their necks, it will only mark the beginning of the long and arduous process to shake the rust.
Unfortunately, unlike the players last year—who still had a preseason to get into game shape after their lockout—these officials are jumping right in the deep end and their actions will have a measurable and meaningful impact on the fate of this season.
Fans hoping that they will never see another controversial call or inexplicable penalty flag will need to be patient and understanding. These are bound to happen in every game—especially when these officials first return—and bizarre instances of refs clearly not being on the same page have taken place in the NFL before and will happen again.
Expect some head-scratching flags to be thrown in the first few weeks while the officials get back into the swing of things after such a long hiatus.
One area that should be noticeably different between the regular officials and the replacement is consistency.
The scabs were wildly inconsistent with their calls, which confused the players and hurt the flow of the action. They also struggled to grasp the many intricacies of the NFL rulebook and speed of the professional game. The culmination of all these factors ended up costing the Packers a win at the end of that MNF fiasco.
If the competitors understand what constitutes a hold, pass interference, etc. etc.., and the referees are thorough in spotting and maintaining the same punishment for each infraction, the product out on the field will show signs improvement from the opening kickoff through to the final whistle.
When the seasoned referees finally get back on the field, home crowds will certainly have much less influence them. This is something that the replacements couldn’t cope with, as home teams went 31-17 during their tenure—including a ridiculous 14-2 record in Week 2.
Ignoring the pressure and collective willpower of 60,000 to 80,000 screaming fans is not a skill that is acquired overnight, and is a valuable one that the locked out refs possessed after working countless games in highly volatile environments.
These referees have earned a respect, and even some admiration, from the many players and coaches around the league, which is why we won’t see nearly as many theatrics in hopes of drawing a flag or any ridiculous acts—such as Bill Belichick running down a ref or Kyle Shanahan verbally berating one—when they return to work.
One critical thing to remember is that the locked out referees are still human. They are going to make mistakes. They are going to be under-prepared when they first take the field on Sunday. It’s going to be a process for them to help get the NFL as a product back to the level it was at in year’s past.
However, they are the best in the world and if the replacements have shown us anything, their consistency and knowledge is invaluable.
It’ll be great to have them back.