Cheers as NFL refs return: ‘It’s good to be back’

Published 9:05 am Friday, September 28, 2012

BALTIMORE — The final pass of the game sailed out of the end zone, saving the regular refs from the same type of call that brought the replacements to the height of unpopularity just three days earlier.

Referee Gene Steratore and his crew didn’t have to decide which player came down with the ball, and fans and players aren’t going to spend today going ballistic that their team was robbed. From the pregame cheers to the final whistle, it was overall a good return for the NFL’s veteran men in stripes, who ran a mostly smooth and efficient game Thursday night as the Baltimore Ravens beat the Cleveland Browns 23-16.

“It was great to have those guys back,” Ravens running back Ray Rice said. “It looked like they knew what they were doing.”

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Yes, the real refs are back. Official harmony is restored to the NFL.

The league’s experiment with replacement officials ended on “Monday Night Football” when a 24-yard desperation pass on the last play was ruled a touchdown — even though replays appeared to show it should been an interception.