MILWAUKEE -- The NFL referees’ lockout ended late Wednesday night, when the NFL and the referees union came to an agreement in contract negotiations. This, after replacement referees had been officiating games for the first three weeks of the NFL’s regular season. Almost 50 regular-season games were called by replacement refs. Fans’ displeasure with the replacement referees came to a head this week following what many say was a botched call during the Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks game on Monday night.
Replacement officials, including the first woman to work an NFL game, had no idea what they were in for when they took to the field for pre-season play in August. They tried their best, but when the games that count kicked off, the action was too fast.
The replacement refs' lack of credibility made them easy targets for players and angry coaches who, despite being warned by the league office to refrain from stepping over the line, couldn't or wouldn't control their emotions.
New England Coach Bill Belichick was fined $50,000 following Monday night's Patriot's loss in Baltimore. Some say he should have been suspended.
It didn't help that many of these missed calls by replacement refs came during prime time games. The tip of the iceberg was Monday night's Packers game in Seattle.
From a penalty on Erik Walden that shouldn't have been called that negated Jerron McMillian's interception, to a pass interference penalty on Sam Shields that should have been charged to Seattle's Sidney Rice, to the no call on the game-ending play where Golden Tate clearly pushed off on Shields, the replacement officials just couldn't get it right.
Instead of quarterback Russell Wilson's pass being what it was, a "fail Mary," M.D. Jennings' interception meant game over.
Referee Lance Easley ruled simultaneous possession, and a Golden Tate touchdown for Seattle. Easley told TMZ he made the right call.
The call that cost the Packers' a victory put the replacement officials in the center of a storm that swept the country. President Obama -- the most famous Chicago Bears' fan spoke out, as did NBA great LeBron James.
It seemed everyone weighed in, including Packers' players.
At last count, 320-pound T.J. Lang's profanity-laced tirade on Twitter was retweeted close to 100,000 times -- smashing the previous record set by Boxer Floyd Maywheather when he called out Manny Pacquiao and Justin Bieber's famous "I'm sexy and I know it" tweet.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's NFL shield has been tarnished, and the integrity of the game has been called into question.
While Goodell wouldn't admit the game-ending call that went against the Packers was the impetus for the locked out officials coming back on Thursday, it is clear to everyone else, including the 70,000 fans who called the NFL's office on Tuesday to protest the call, that the Packers took one for the team.
The NFL and referees' union deal is expected to be ratified Friday or Saturday. 121 NFL officials are coming back to work -- including the crew for Thursday night's Browns vs. Ravens game in Baltimore. That crew has a combined 70 years of experience officiating NFL games.
Read more about the controversy surrounding the Packers-Seahawks game-ending call by CLICKING HERE.