The NFL lockout ended around midnight, and should've ended sooner. Simple as that.
Tonight, a crew of veteran NFL officials, led by referee Gene Steratore, will work the Ravens-Browns game, and the usual crews will be on the field Sunday & Monday as well. The ill-advised idea of using replacement referees for the first three weeks of the season was a total dud, culminating in the screwjob finish to Monday's Packers-Seahawks game. An offensive pass interference foul that should've been called on Seattle's Golden Tate was ignored despite how obvious it was to everyone involved, and a giddy, unapologetic Pete Carroll led the Seahawks off the field with a tainted 14-12 win.
Too many penalites that were clear as day were ignored, but then, that's nothing new even when normal officials are working. Take for example the Buccaneers-Giants game on September 16. There were at least three defensive holding penalties that went uncalled. As I wrote at the time, the sub officials were out of position due to a lack of proper training for the quicker pace of pro ball, and missed the calls. In Tampa Bay's defense, it would've made matters worse if the flags fell on those plays, considering the Giants woke up in the second half and won the game.
One of this week's Weasels, New England coach Bill Belichick was slapped with a $50,000 fine for making contact with an official after Sunday's loss to Baltimore. He wanted an explanation on how the Ravens could possibly have gotten the winning field goal, but, to tell you the truth, finally seeing the replay of the winning kick on Wednesday's episode of Around The Horn, Belichick had no case.
The ref in the Packers-Seahawks game, it was reported, was getting death threats, this coming a little more than a week after Washington's Josh Morgan was also getting death threats from irate Redskin fans because of an immature act that drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which ultimately cost Washington its game vs. St. Louis. Couple this with the threats issued to players for postseason losses in January, and, well, that's a disturbing trend that needs to be addressed next by Commissioner Roger Goodell. We get that fans are passionate about their teams, but in this age of social media, it can get out of hand pretty quickly, especially if a few hundred idiots are too sloshed to understand the severity of the problem they're causing.
One thing to watch for tonight. Whether or not the zebras get a "Welcome back!" chant. I wouldn't doubt it.