On Friday morning, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote a letter to fans of the league, expressing his apologies for the referee holdout that came to an end Wednesday night:
"I believe in accountability, not excuses. And I regret we were not able to secure an agreement sooner in the process and avoid the unfortunate distractions to the game. You deserve better."
A labor dispute between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association was not resolved in time for the regular season and for the first three weeks the officials on the field were filled by replacement referees with varying degrees of experience in the sport, but none at the NFL level.
The calls from the replacement referees were heavily scrutinized and came to a head at the conclusion of the Monday Night Football matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers in Week 3. A Hail Mary from Russell Wilson that appeared to many to be an interception by M.D. Jennings was instead called a touchdown reception by Golden Tate, drawing harsh criticism from fans, analysts, players and coaches alike.
Despite the criticism, Goodell still praised the effort of the replacement officials in his letter for their attempt at the job:
"As a lifelong fan, this wasn't an easy process for anyone involved. I particularly want to commend the replacement officials for taking on an unenviable task and doing it with focus and dedication in the most adverse of circumstances."
Following the deal that was reached on Wednesday evening, the league's regular officials returned for Thursday night's game between the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns, and will also be present for Sunday's entire slate of Week 4 games.