No matter what your record is, one subject Wednesday around the NFL caused plenty of smiles: the return of the regular officials after three regular-season weeks using replacements.
That was definitely the case inside the Washington Redskins' locker room.
"I'm excited to finally get our real refs back," defensive end Stephen Bowen said. "No disrespect to the other refs, but some of the stuff was just kind of crazy. It's something else that we don't have to worry about."
Complaints abound through the first three weeks, about blown calls and issues of safety. Replacements playing such a major role in the end of the Seattle Seahawks-Green Bay Packers "Monday Night Football" game was the culmination of league-wide angst.
Still, defensive lineman Kedric Golston was surprised that the NFL and its Referees Association came to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement so quickly.
"I know that there had been a lot of scrutiny, especially after the 'Monday Night Football' game," Golston said. "I guess the pressure was on."
It was, especially when President Obama was posting on Twitter that he hoped a deal would get completed soon to bring the regular officials back. He was just echoing what players and fans have been saying for weeks.
"You aways say you don't miss something until you go without it. Handling these replacement refs the last couple of weeks has kind of been difficult, frustrating at times, just because they lacked experience, weren't up to par on a lot of the rules," linebacker and Redskins NFL Players Association rep Lorenzo Alexander said. "And having people back that really understand the flow of the game, how it's played and have 10, 15 years of doing this job is going to be great as far as allowing players to go out there, play at their highest level and go out there and make plays."
The Redskins were on the wrong side of the replacement officials getting at least one prominent call wrong in their loss Sunday to the Cincinnati Bengals. Plays like that are where guys hope life is back to normal.
Most importantly, though, there was relief about the officials returning because of the stability they provide after whistles.
"Obviously, the safety of the players is our main issue. Having those referees back out here with all that experience and knowledge of the game, it's definitely going to help with that," Alexander said. "I'm glad they were able to get a deal done and, we can go out here and play some clean games."
Bowen conceded that football's a violent sport, but keeping control of games is what the regular officials might be able to do best compared to their replacement counterparts.
"We've got to accept that things may happen, but just the way the games are regulated now, there's not going to be a lot of people getting out of control, putting hands on refs and stuff like that, players or coaches," he said. "I think you'll see the game come back to form the way it's supposed to be."
From the coaching end, Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said communication should be easier.
"It's a new group to yell at," he said.
Expect cheers from fans for the refs and heightened respect from players. But don't think the regular officials will get a weekend off from pressure.
"I wouldn't say a free pass. I mean, they're professionals. If I miss a week off because of injury and I come back in, I don't get a free pass," Alexander said. "They've been doing this long enough that they know their positions, they know the rules. Obviously judgment calls, you never know with those, and you get better with time. But they don't get a free pass. They need to come out here like professionals, they watched tape, and make good calls."
Kyle Shanahan reacts to fine
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan expressed regret Thursday for his actions that led to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the final drive Sunday and a $25,000 fine from the NFL.
"It hurt. It's a lot of money. I wasn't surprised; I was expecting it," he said. "It is a lot of money. But my fault, and I've got to live with it."
Shanahan said he regrets any time he costs his team with a penalty "whether it's justified or not."
As for how happy he was about the return of the regular officials, Shanahan didn't take the bait on the $25,000 question.
"I'm not going to go there," he said. "But I'm looking forward to having the guys we're used to, that's for sure."
Black preparing to start
Trent Williams did not practice again Thursday while nursing a bone bruise in his right knee, so Jordan Black is preparing to start at left tackle Sunday as the Redskins visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"I'm getting the reps," Black said. "It's about as good a situation as you can get being a backup as far as preparation goes." Black replaced Williams in the loss to the Bengals, but this week is helpful for the veteran to get used to playing alongside the starters and with quarterback Robert Griffin III. He said he's "miles ahead" of where he was last week.
"There are so many little things that I picked up [Wednesday] that it just takes time getting snaps with the 1s. For instance, in the game, I was late off the snap count," Black said. "But actually getting in there, listening to Robert's snap count and stuff, you start picking it up, things start happening faster. The way that they all communicate, I’m learning all that."
Along with Williams, cornerback Cedric Griffin (hamstring) did not practice Thursday. Receivers Pierre Garcon (right foot) and Brandon Banks (hip) and running back Evan Royster (right knee) were limited. Banks was a newcomer to the Redskins' injury report, and coach Mike Shanahan said Garcon was improving.
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