The sport's experiment with replacements ended Thursday night when a veteran crew worked the Browns-Ravens game. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apologized to fans for the anxiety of the past three weeks while denying that using replacement officials increased the chances of flagrant mistakes.
After two days of marathon negotiations -- and mounting frustration across the league -- the NFL and the officials' union announced at midnight Wednesday that a tentative eight-year agreement had been reached to end a lockout that began in June.
Goodell insisted the timing of the deal was not a reaction to the outcry over Monday night's game, when a missed call cost Green Bay a win against the Seattle Seahawks. The two sides had been in "intensive negotiations" the last two weeks, he said, although he acknowledged Monday night "may have pushed the parties further along."
For the Packers, Redskins, Lions and other teams who voiced their displeasure with calls that might have swayed games, the agreement doesn't change their records.
"Obviously, when you go through something like this, it is painful for everybody," Goodell said. "Most importantly, it is painful for our fans. We are sorry to have to put our fans through that, but it is something that in the short term you sometimes have to do to make sure you get the right kind of deal for the long term and make sure you continue to grow the game."
Information from Espn.com and The Associated Press contributed to this report.