The regular officials returned Thursday night during the Cleveland Browns vs. Baltimore Ravens game to a standing ovation. There were no controversial calls in this game. There were no moments of incompetency. It was just another game for the normal referees, albeit a little late in the season to be making their debut.
The feelings of the returning officials were evident within referee Gene Steratore's greeting to the captains during the coin toss.
Good evening, men, it's good to be back.
That was just one game with the normal officiating crew operating under the NFLRA. What can be expected during the remaining games?
It's a good possibility that nothing major or news worthy will come from any of this week's games save for the the praise and sentiments of relief from players and coaches alike. However, the proverbial honeymoon will have to end sometime. It is just a matter of time before one of the league's regular officials is getting blasted for blowing a call and possibly costing a team certain victory.
That last part may be a bit over the top but the point is valid; the only difference that separated the replacement refs with the originals was the experience factor. Yes, the Green Bay vs. Seattle game would have ended differently with the normal officiating crews. The penalty would have been called and the controversy averted. These replacement refs were just way in over their heads.
The remainder of the season will be interesting to watch because there are bound to be questionable calls and endless debates on how a play or game should have turned out as a result of the call. Players will complain, coaches will argue and fans will boo the zebra crews mercilessly.
Despite the bad calls that are on the horizon, at least we will see respected refs who are confident and competent in the performance of their duties. Remember that when your team is flagged for holding or a pass-interference penalty. Remember that when you see order brought to chaos when teams want to mix it up a little after a play.
The teams and fans had their wish granted when an agreement was reached and the officials we've all come to love and hate returned to the gridiron. Applaud, boo and ridicule to your heart's content. The real referees are back.
Welcome back indeed.