NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith echoed growing league-wide player sentiments in a statement on Thursday, noting the alleviation of many safety concerns on the field following the NFL and NFL Referees Association's agreement on an eight-year collective bargaining deal that ended the official lockout on Wednesday night.
"Our workplace is safer with the return of our professional referees," Smith said. "We welcome our fellow Union members back on our field."
The replacement officials were coming under increasingly-heavy fire for a vast array of missed penalties, phantom calls and a lack of control on the field that led to aggressive play and violent hits that were often not flagged.
The replacement officiating problem hit its peak after Russell Wilson's last second game-winning heave to receiver Golden Tate on Monday night was ruled a touchdown and gave the Seattle Seahawks a stunning win over the Green Bay Packers in what appeared to be an interception.