NEW YORK — The replacement officials are gone and the NFL is sorry it took so long. Now fans can go back to complaining about the calls made by the regular refs.
The sports experiment with replacements ended Thursday night when a veteran crew worked the Browns-Ravens game.
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, 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 nights game, when a missed call cost Green Bay a win against the Seattle Seahawks. The two sides had been in intensive negotiations the past two weeks, he said, although he acknowledged it may have pushed the parties further along.
The agreement hinged on working out pension and retirement benefits for the officials, who are part-time employees of the league. Goodell said the NFLs offer to increase the deals length from five to eight years spurred some concessions from the officials.
The tentative pact calls for their salaries to increase from an average of $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013, rising to $205,000 by 2019.
The tentative deal must be ratified by 51 percent of the unions 121 members. They plan to vote today and Saturday in Dallas.
Falcons Abraham cities bad timing on arrest
Atlanta defensive end John Abraham is calling his arrest on obstruction of justice charges a matter of bad timing. The former USC standout was arrested Monday night when Atlanta police and firefighters were trying to calm a woman who was threatening to jump from a midtown building window.
Atlanta police officer Christopher Blaise said this week that Abraham refused to leave an area that had been taped off by authorities. Blaise added that Abraham smelled of alcohol, was unsteady on his feet and had slurred speech and bloodshot eyes.
The four-time Pro Bowl player was charged with two misdemeanors. He was released from custody Tuesday at 1:24 a.m. on a $7,000 total bond, or $3,500 for each charge, according to Fulton County jail records.
Abraham, a 13-year veteran and the active NFL sacks leader, practiced with the Falcons on Thursday for the second straight day. He said he met with coach Mike Smith to give the team his side of the story.
Patriots cut TE Winslow after one game
New England has released tight end Kellen Winslow after one game. The veteran of eight full seasons was cut after catching one pass for 12 yards in Sunday nights 31-30 loss to Baltimore. The Patriots signed him after tight end Aaron Hernandez suffered a right ankle injury the previous week.
Though ex-Clemson standout C.J. Spiller remains a question mark, Buffalo is expected to have running back Fred Jackson ready to play against New England this weekend. Coach Chan Gailey provided the update after Jackson made it through his second straight day of practice since spraining his right knee in a season-opening loss at the New York Jets on Sept. 9. ...
Ahmad Bradshaw is ready to return as the Giants top running back after being sidelined for a game by an inflamed disk in his neck. ...
Lions starting defensive tackle Corey Williams had knee surgery that rules him out for Sundays game against the Minnesota
Man pleads guilty to extorting RG3
A former Baylor basketball player pleaded guilty to trying to extort $1 million from Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III by threatening to expose damaging information, prosecutors said.
Richard Khamir Hurd, 26, pleaded guilty to one count of interstate communication of a threat related to extortion. He faces two to three years in prison when hes sentenced Nov. 21.