GREEN BAY, Wis. —- There is no team in the NFL happier than the Packers that the regular referees are back on the field.
With an agreement reached between the NFL and the Referees Association just 48 hours after the officiating debacle that directly affected the outcome of Monday night’s Packers-Seahawks game, there were conflicted emotions inside the Lambeau Field locker room Thursday. There was a general sigh of relief that replacement referees were gone but also another cold reality check that it came at their expense.
“I’m excited for professionals to come in here and referee professionals,” tight end Jermichael Finley told FOXSportsWisconsin.com. “You can’t have guys in Division II referee professionals. It was a must (to get the regular referees back). They (the replacements) were costing games, and that costs money for some people. If you want to look at it as a business like they are, it’s costing us money.”
Finley was one of several Packers players who sent out expletive-laden tweets following the game. But considering President Obama, as well as star athletes such as LeBron James, had publicly voiced their displeasure with the NFL, Finley couldn’t imagine the referee lockout lasting even one more day.
“(The NFL) had a choice, but (they) really didn’t because the world would be against you then,” Finley said. “The league doesn’t want that heat. I think something had to happen.”
Finley plans to give “a little hug or a chest bump” to the returning referees Sunday before the Packers host the New Orleans Saints. Other players are just happy that the replacement refs won’t be back for Week 4 of the regular season.
“I never thought I’d be at this point in my career where I’d be looking forward to talking about referees,” nose tackle B.J. Raji said. “I think it’s a good day. I guess what transpired last Monday, this is really the only positive way as far as that situation to move on. I’m excited, I guess, to get them back.”
For offensive lineman T.J. Lang, whose profane tweet toward the NFL set a retweeting record, his choice words may have had a direct impact on negotiations with the locked-out referees.
“With all the outrage that came out of Monday’s game, I can imagine that it probably put a little bit more pressure on them,” Lang said Thursday. “We’re glad that’s done with and can move on.”
Lang added that he “was surprised” the NFL opted not to fine him for his pointed four-letter words directed at the league.
“The one thing that I do regret about the statements I made were that I wish I could’ve expressed them a little differently, reworded my phrases without all the expletives, because that’s embarrassing,” Lang said. “That’s something I wish I could re-do. I just wanted to express my emotions about it. I was happy that a lot of guys spoke up about it because it’s never fun losing a game like that.”
Earlier Thursday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell held a press conference in which he stated that the outrage over the missed call was “the beauty of sports and the beauty of officiating.”
Tight end Tom Crabtree was not overly pleased with that statement.
“That’s interesting,” he said, before a long pause. “That’s very interesting.”
Coach Mike McCarthy, who has preached to his team all week to move on and focus on how it can improve as a group, was just happy this is now behind the Packers.
“I’m glad to see the referees’ contract is in place and we’re ready to go,” McCarthy said Thursday. “Anything that improves the quality of play, I feel very good about it. The mechanics, the whole operation was slower (with the replacement referees).”
McCarthy insisted that the slower tempo did not impact Green Bay’s under-performing offense.
Later on Thursday, just two hours before the Thursday night game between the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens, which was officiated by the returning regular referees, Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy attempted to give this whole situation finality.
Murphy, issuing a public statement with no questions from reporters allowed, urged Packers fans “to move on” and spoke positively of the agreement that the NFL reached with the referees.
“It’s good for the league, good for the game in the long run, (and) I do think it’s a type of agreement that I think was a win for both sides,” he said. “I’m really pleased that we were able to reach an agreement.”
And with that, Murphy, as well as McCarthy, hope this chapter of the Packers 2012 season is over.