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Thursday, September 27, 2012
Regular refs to to return for Browns-Ravens

By Jamison Hensley

The lockout of the union officials should have never extended into the regular season, but the NFL wrapped it up the right way this week.

A league spokesman announced at 11:56 p.m. ET Wednesday night that an agreement had been reached with the NFL Referees Association. But here's where the league came through: There will be a regular referee-union crew in Baltimore for Thursday night's Ravens-Browns game.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell temporarily lifted the lockout so that the officials can work the Thursday-night game prior to their ratification vote. The officials will meet Friday and Saturday to vote on the agreement.

“The long-term future of our game requires that we seek improvement in every area, including officiating,” Goodell said in a statement released by the league. “This agreement supports long-term reforms that will make officiating better. The teams, players and fans want and deserve both consistency and quality in officiating.”

Goodell added, “We look forward to having the finest officials in sports back on the field, and I want to give a special thanks to NFL fans for their passion. Now it's time to put the focus back on the teams and players where it belongs."

That means the league will have a crew in place 20 hours after the deal was struck. As I wrote earlier in the day, it would've been unfair to subject the Browns and Ravens to one more game with replacement officials while the rest of the NFL teams had the previously locked-out officials this weekend.

The Ravens are going to be among the happiest teams to see the replacement officials go. Baltimore was the fifth-most penalized team this season. The Ravens were averaging 8.6 penalties per game and were on pace for 139 penalties, which would've tied a franchise record.

Here are key parts of the agreement: