(CNN) — The touchdown catch that wasn’t. The first touchdown interception. The inaccurate reception. Whatever you call it, don’t call the controversial call by replacement refs in the Green Bay Packers-Seattle Seahwaks game a catalyst for the tentative labor deal with National Football League referees, Commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday.
“It may have pushed the parties farther along, but we were really in intensive negotiations for the last two weeks,” Goodell told reporters in a conference call Thursday to discuss the agreement, reached late Wednesday.
Goodell also said he was sorry the league felt it had to resort to the replacements, few of whom had any previous NFL officiating experience. Many were high school or low-level college officials who hold down myriad of other jobs, from schoolteachers to attorneys.
“We worked as hard as we could and we did the best we could,” Henry Zaborniak, a fill-in line judge who lives in Ohio, told CNN. “None of us felt like we could replace the regular guys. You can’t replace that sort of ability en masse.”
Zaborniak, who spent 15 years as a Big Ten official, said he and his colleagues never imagined working this long. He thought they’d work one game and go home. While the officials were excoriated in the media, Zaborniak said the players were very professional.
“I can’t think of one unkind thing I could say about them,” he said. “They were tremendous.”
Goodell declined to criticize the replacements despite weeks of botched calls that raised the ire of fans nationwide.
‘Real’ refs to return to NFL after deal
NFL referees to return to the gridiron
The Seattle Seahawks defeated the Green Bay Packers 14-12 on Monday, September 24, after replacement officials, standing in for locked-out NFL regulars, gave possession of a disputed ball to Seattle receiver Golden Tate. Officials in the end zone gave competing signals: one indicating a touchdown, the other an interception.
A timer got stuck (or something) during the 2012 London Olympics, allowing German fencer Britta Heidemann to defeat South Korean fencer Shin A-Lam in the epee semifinal. Shin sat on the piste for an hour, crying at times, while officials worked out the question.
Baseball umpire Bill Joyce admittedly blew a call at first base, robbing the Detroit Tigers’ Armando Galarraga of a perfect game vs. the Cleveland Indians in 2010. Joyce wept when he met Galarraga at home plate before the next day’s game.
In a 2009 qualifying match for the 2010 World Cup, French striker Thierry Henry got away with touching the ball with his hand — twice — before teammate William Gallas scored the winning goal against Ireland, knocking the Irish out of the competition.
A regular NFL referee screwed up the call on an overtime coin toss on Thanksgiving Day 1998, and the Detroit Lions beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Referees failed to call Germany’s Torsten Frings for a handball during a 2002 match, and the U.S. was knocked out of the World Cup tournament.
Argentina’s Diego Maradona illegally touched the ball with his hand while scoring a goal against England in soccer’s 1986 World Cup tournament. It became known as the “Hand of God” after Maradona credited divine intervention for the dubious goal.
In 1999, the Dallas Stars’ Brett Hull scored in triple overtime with a skate in the crease — which at the time was illegal — and the Stars went on to win the Stanley Cup over the Buffalo Sabres.
New York Yankees second baseman Chuck Knoblauch put a phantom tag on Jose Offerman of the Boston Red Sox during the American League Championship Series in 1999. Offerman was called out, and the Yankees went on to win.
A 12-year-old baseball fan named Jeffrey Maier reached over the fence to deflect a ball hit by the Yankees’ Derek Jeter into the stands for a home run during the 1996 ALCS against Baltimore. Jeter could have been called out for fan interference.
In college football, on-field officials gave Colorado a fifth down (a team gets only four) to score a touchdown during a crucial game against Missouri in 1990. Colorado won 33-31 and went on to claim part of the national title. Missouri fans pulled down the goalpost after the loss.
American boxer Roy Jones Jr. dominated his South Korean opponent in the gold-medal match at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, only to see Park Si-Hun handed the decision.
Umpire Don Denkinger called the Kansas City Royals’ Jorge Orta safe at first base despite being beaten by half a step in the ninth inning of a 1985 World Series game against St. Louis. Kansas City went on to win the game and the series.
In the 1972 Olympics, officials reset the clock three times in the final moments to allow the USSR to prevail in the gold-medal basketball game against the undefeated U.S. team. Before the clock was reset, the U.S. team mistakenly celebrated what they thought was a win.
Baltimore Orioles catcher Elrod Hendricks tagged sliding Cincinnati runner Bernie Carbo with an empty glove in a 1970 World Series game, but umpire Ken Burkhart — who had his back to the play — called Carbo out. (By the way, Carbo also missed the plate.)
Photos: Blown calls in sports
“Everything they did, every call, was magnified,” Goodell said. “They kept the game going. They worked hard. They trained hard. They were incredibly focused and dedicated.”
The eight-year deal — the longest ever for officials, according to the NFL — gives the union referees a pay raise and keeps their pension program in place for five years.
It suspends a lockout that began before the league’s preseason, leading to a series of gaffes that climaxed in a furor over a botched call that allowed the Seahawks to walk away with a victory in Monday night’s nationally televised game. The league acknowledged Tuesday that the Packers should have won, but allowed the result of the game to stand.
Fans and players rejoiced in the news that regular referees would return, beginning with Thursday night’s game between the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Ravens.
“Never thought I would be excited for the refs to come back to work but it’s about time,” Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Cribbs tweeted Thursday. “It was definitely necessary!”
Photos: Blown calls
In place of the replacement referees, most of whom had officiated no more than a handful of pro games, the league put together a veteran crew with a combined 70 seasons of NFL experience to handle Thursday night’s game.
Goodell said it was challenging to figure out how to get regular referees back on the field less than 24 hours after striking the tentative deal, but not for lack of enthusiasm among the officials to get back to work.
“They wanted to do what they love doing and make a contribution to the game, and that’s a tribute to them,” Goodell said.
While they have not called a game since last season, the league’s veteran crews will be ready to go, said retired official Mason “Red” Cashion.
“These guys have been working every week, really since May, to get ready for the season, through conference calls, through video, through meetings of their own,” Cashion said. “And that’s something that the officials have done simply because they have enough pride in what they do that they wanted to be ready. And they are ready.”
SI: NFL’s most embarrassing moments
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson throws the winning touchdown pass against the Green Bay Packers in Seattle on Monday night. The Seahawks defeated the Packers 14-12 after a much-questioned call by the referees.
Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate, in navy blue, jumps for the ball, surrounded by Green Bay players. Before he made the catch in the end zone, Tate shoved Packers defender Sam Shields in the back, which would typically draw an offensive pass interference penalty.
The group falls to the ground in the end zone. Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings appeared to intercept the pass and had both hands wrapped around the ball with the ball pulled into his chest.
Referees rush over to make the call.
On Twitter, this is being called the “official photo” of the replacement referee debacle. Two officials in the end zone gave contradictory signals: One signaled a touchdown and the other signaled a clock stoppage, indicating a change of possession and an interception.
Tate and No. 14 Charly Martin wrestle with Jennings.
The play was reviewed on video but was ruled a touchdown. See the best of NFL Week 3.
Photos: The Seahawks-Packers final play
Officials in the end zone give different signals on the final play of the Green Bay-Seattle game on Monday night. The Seahawks beat the Packers 14-12 on a controversial call in the end zone on the final play at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Check out the action from Week 3 of the 2012 National Football League season. Look back at the best of Week 2 and see more of CNN’s best photography.
Wide receiver Golden Tate of the Seattle Seahawks makes a catch in the end zone to defeat the Green Bay Packers on a controversial call by the officials at CenturyLink Field on Monday.
Wide receiver Golden Tate of the Seahawks wrestles with cornerback M.D. Jennings of the Green Bay Packers in the end zone.
Quarterback Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks throws a pass in the first half against the Green Bay Packers on Monday.
Ben Obomanu of the Seattle Seahawks prepares to catch a pass as D.J. Smith of the Green Bay Packers defends on Monday.
Marshawn Lynch of Seattle runs the ball Monday.
Seattle’s Russell Wilson throws the ball in Monday night’s game against Green Bay.
Green Bay’s A.J. Hawk tackles Marshawn Lynch of the Seahawks.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers fires a pass on Monday.
James Jones of the Green Bay Packers makes a reception Monday in Seattle.
John Kuhn of Green Bay looks around after losing his helmet on a play.
Green Bay’s John Kuhn runs the ball against Danny Gorrer of Seattle.
Seattle’s Golden Tate, right, celebrates after scoring a 41-yard touchdown in the second quarter Monday.
Wes Welker of the New England Patriots runs with the ball after catching a pass in front of Lardarius Webb of the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday, September 23. The Ravens won 31-30.
The Ravens’ No. 27 Ray Rice celebrates after he scored a seven-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter against the New England Patriots on Sunday.
Quarterback Joe Flacco of the Ravens is brought down by No. 74 Kyle Love and No. 96 Jermaine Cunningham of the Patriots after scrambling for a first down on Sunday.
Vonta Leach of the Baltimore Ravens moves the ball for a seven-yard gain against the New England Patriots on Sunday.
Brandon Bolden of the New England Patriots scores a two-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday in Baltimore.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throws a pass in the first half against the Ravens.
Anquan Boldin of the Ravens catches a pass.
Ed Reed of the Ravens breaks up a pass as he hits the Patriots’ Julian Edelman in the first quarter.
Devin McCourty of the Patriots breaks up a pass intended for the Torrey Smith of the Ravens.
New England’s Julian Edelman falls to the turf after taking a hit from Baltimore’s Ed Reed.
A referee seperates New England and Baltimore players.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco throws a pass against the Patriots.
Torrey Smith of the Ravens catches a 25-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady takes the field for Sunday night’s game against the Ravens.
Tight end Randy McMichael of the San Diego Chargers leaps in front of Dominique Franks of the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday in San Diego. The Falcons defeated the Chargers 27-3.
Vaughn Martin of the Chargers pressures Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons catches the ball as Charles Mitchell of the San Diego Chargers defends on Sunday.
Atlanta’s Julio Jones is brought down by San Diego’s Marcus Gilchrist.
Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers throws in the game against the Atlanta Falcons in San Diego.
The Denver Broncos offense faces off against the Houston Texans defense on Sunday in Denver. The Texans defeated the Broncos 31-25.
Place kicker Matt Prater of the Denver Broncos kicks a field goal from the hold of punter Britton Colquitt against the Houston Texans in Denver on Sunday.
Keshawn Martin of the Houston Texans runs the ball against the Denver Broncos.
Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos drops back to pass Sunday against the Houston Texans.
Elvis Dumervil of the Broncos, right, celebrates his safety with Von Miller on Sunday against the Texans.
Denver quarterback Peyton Manning throws a pass in the first quarter against the Texans.
Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals, left, and teammate Andre Roberts celebrate a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday in Glendale, Arizona.
Kevin Kolb of the Cardinals throws a 37-yard touchdown during the second quarter against the Eagles.
Mike Wallace of the Steelers gets caught from behind by Richard Seymour of the Raiders.
Ryan Clark of the Pittsburgh Steelers watches Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders from the sidelines in Oakland.
Oakland’s Marcel Reece is hit by Pittsburgh’s Lawrence Timmons.
Michael Floyd of the Cardinals celebrates after scoring.
Percy Harvin of the Minnesota Vikings avoids a tackle by Chris Culliver of the San Francisco 49ers during the fourth quarter Sunday at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis.
Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers sets up to throw.
Kyle Rudolph of the Minnesota Vikings rolls in the endzone for a touchdown Sunday while Donte Whitner of the San Francisco 49ers looks to the referee.
Aldon Smith of the 49ers attempts to snag the ball from Adrian Peterson of the Vikings on Sunday.
Harrison Smith of the Minnesota Vikings tackles Delanie Walker of the San Francisco 49ers during the first quarter Sunday.
Minnesota’s Kyle Rudolph, right, celebrates with John Carlson after scoring a touchdown against San Francisco.
Christian Ponder of the Vikings fires a pass downfield.
Mikel LeShoure of the Detroit Lions jumps over Ryan Mouton of the Tennessee Titans.
Dominic Raiola of the Detroit Lions reacts following the instant replay review of a fourth-down play in overtime against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday in Nashville. The Titans won 44-41.
No. 56 Akeem Ayers of the Titans bats down a hail mary pass intended for the Lions’ Titus Young.
Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions runs after catching a pass against the Tennessee Titans.
Detroit’s Mikel Leshoure gets tripped up by Tennessee’s Ryan Mouton.
Nate Burleson of the Lions stiff-arms Michael Griffin of the Titans.
Nate Burleson of the Detroit Lions is tackled by Will Witherspoon of the Tennessee Titans on Sunday in Nashville.
Bill Bentley of the Detroit Lions squares up to try to tackle Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans.
Ryan Succop of the Chiefs celebrates after kicking a field goal against the Saints on Sunday.
Javier Arenas of the Kansas City Chiefs avoids a tackle during Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.
Dwayne Bower of Kansas City is pursued by Scott Shanle of New Orleans on Sunday.
Dwayne Bowe of the Kansas City Chiefs is pushed out of bounds by Patrick Robinson of the New Orleans Saints on Sunday in New Orleans. The Chiefs defeated the Saints 27-24 in overtime.
Dwayne Bowe of the Kansas City Chiefs is tackled during Sunday’s game against the Saints in New Orleans.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees throws a pass against the Chiefs.
Brees scrambles to get away from the Chiefs’ Jovan Belcher.
No. 84 Jermaine Gresham celebrates with Mohamed Sanu of the Cincinnati Bengals after scoring a touchdown on a 6-yard pass in the second half Sunday against the Washington Redskins.
London Fletcher of the Washington Redskins, left, tries to make an interception against Jermaine Gresham of the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday at FedExField n Landover, Maryland.
Bengals and Redskins players leap for the ball.
Washington’s Alfred Morris dives after a run against Cincinnati.
Andrew Hawkins of the Cincinnati Bengals avoids a tackle by the Washington Redskins’ Richard Crawford on his way to scoring a game-winning touchdown Sunday in Landover, Maryland. The Bengals won 38-31.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is hit as he throws a pass. The Redskins’ Rob Jackson would intercept and return it for a touchdown.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins is sacked by No. 93 Michael Johnson of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Cincinnati’s A.J. Green makes a catch against Washington’s DeAngelo Hall.
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III runs against the Bengals.
Jacksonville’s Rashean Mathis of the runs downfield after intercepting a pass against the Colts.
Paul Posluszny of the Jacksonville Jaguars looks for a teammate to lateral to after an interception against the Indianapolis Colts.
Donnie Avery of the Indianapolis Colts reaches out for a catch that fell incomplete as Dwight Lowery of the Jacksonville Jaguars defends Sunday in Indianapolis.
Donald Brown of the Colts runs the ball as Russell Allen of the Jaguars makes the tackle from behind.
Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts throws a pass during Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Indianapolis.
No. 5 Josh Freeman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fumbles the ball during Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Cowboys and Buccaneers players jump for the ball in the endzone.
Tampa Bay’s Aqib Talib returns an interception.
Tampa Bay’s Mike Williams tries to elude Sean Lee of Dallas.
Dallas’ DeMarco Murray vaults for a touchdown.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo runs for daylight against Tampa Bay.
Felix Jones of the Dallas Cowboys is tripped up by D.J. Ware of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday in Arlington, Texas.
Barry Church of the Dallas Cowboys pressures Luke Stocker of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys fumbles the ball Sunday after being hit by Michael Bennett of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Dez Bryant of the Cowboys makes a 44-yard punt return Sunday against the Buccaneers.
Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys runs the ball Sunday against Ahmad Black of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Brad Smith of the Buffalo Bills runs by Cleveland Browns defenders.
Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden, left, celebrates with Richardson after the rookie running back’s touchdown against the Bills.
Chris Ogbonnaya of the Browns jumps over Justin Rogers of the Bills on Sunday.
Aaron Williams of Buffalo breaks up a pass intended for Cleveland’s Mohamed Massaquoi.
Corey McIntyre of the Buffalo Bills runs off the field after a victory over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday in Cleveland. The Bills defeated the Browns 24-14.
Buffalo’s No. 13 Steve Johnson celebrates after scoring a touchdown.
Trent Richardson of the Cleveland Browns scores a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
T.J. Graham of the Buffalo Bills celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Jared Odrick of the Miami Dolphins hits Mark Sanchez of the New York Jets as he gets the ball away.
Daniel Thomas of the Miami Dolphins runs with the ball during Sunday’s game against the New York Jets at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Jets defeated the Dolphins 23-20 in overtime.
Anthony Fasano of the Miami Dolphins is tackled by Antonio Cromartie of the New York Jets at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.
New York Jets backup quarterback Tim Tebow smiles before Sunday’s game against the Dolphins.
Reggie Bush of the Dolphins runs against the Jets’ Darrelle Revis.
Josh Cribbs of the Cleveland Browns is tackled by Nigel Bradham of the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Brian Hartline of the Dolphins fails to make a catch against the Jets.
Cortland Finnegan of the Rams breaks up a pass intended for Alshon Jeffery of the Bears.
Lance Briggs of the Chicago Bears tackles Steven Jackson of the St. Louis Rams on Sunday at Soldier Field in Chicago.
Amobi Okoye of the Chicago Bears sacks Sam Bradford of the St. Louis Rams at Soldier Field in Chicago.
The Bears’ Jay Cutler runs for a first down against the Rams.
Brandon Marshall of the Bears tries to catch a pass Sunday as he is hit by the Rams’ Craig Dahl.
Ramses Barden of the New York Giants stiff-arms Luke Kuechly of the Carolina Panthers during a play on Thursday, September 20, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Jayron Hosley of the New York Giants intercepts a pass intended for Brandon LaFell of the Carolina Panthers on Thursday.
Andre Brown of the Giants runs the ball down to the 2-yard line in the second quarter on Thursday against Josh Norman of the Carolina Panthers.
Major Wright of the Chicago Bears scores a touchdown after intercepting a pass Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.
Officials separate the Giants’ Michael Boley from the Panthers’ Steve Smith as they scuffle after a play.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton throws a pass in the first quarter against the New York Giants on Thursday.
Cam Newton reacts after he was sacked in the first half against the Giants on Thursday.
Martellus Bennett of the New York Giants makes a reception in the first half on Thursday.
Martellus Bennett of the New York Giants scores on a 14-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter against the Panthers on Thursday.
Andre Brown of the New York Giants runs the ball in the first quarter against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday.
Quarterback Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers leads his teammates onto the field to play against the New York Giants on Thursday. Look back at the best of Week 2 and at see more of CNN’s best photography.
NFL Week 3: The best photos
The eight-year deal, which must be ratified by union members, includes details about officials’ pensions and retirement benefits, and adds a pay bump from $149,000 a year in 2011 to $173,000 in 2013. The pay will rise to $205,000 by 2019.
The agreement will also allow the NFL to hire some officials on a year-round basis and hire additional referees so they can be trained.
“This agreement supports long-term reforms that will make officiating better. The teams, players and fans want and deserve both consistency and quality in officiating,” Goodell said.
What the refs were negotiating
The return of the league’s regular referees won’t put an end to controversial calls, said retired NFL player Tiki Barber. But it will raise the respect level between coaches and players and officials, Barber said.
“There’s still going to be arguing with referees,” he said. “They’re still going to make bad calls. But now we’re going to know that it’s coming from a base of knowledge. These guys know what they’re talking about and they’re going to have an argument for why they do what they do on the field.”
Fired up over NFL referees? Share your thoughts.
The deal came almost exactly 48 hours after the controversial ending of the Monday night game, which the Seahawks won 14-12 after replacement officials gave possession of a disputed ball, and a touchdown, to Seattle receiver Golden Tate.
In what became a widely mocked symbol of the quality of officiating by the replacements, a photo from that game shows two officials in the end zone displaying competing signals: one indicating a touchdown, the other an interception.
The result generated intense and immediate criticism of the league — even President Barack Obama weighed in Tuesday urging a quick resolution. On Thursday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama was “very pleased” with the resolution.
Goodell said he was not surprised by the outcry.
“I’ve come to learn in the NFL, particularly with the popularity of the game and the influence it has in today’s society, not much surprises me about what happens in the NFL,” he said.
Despite prodding by reporters, he declined to closely dissect the play that ended Monday night’s game beyond the statement the NFL issued Tuesday. In that statement, the NFL said the replacement refs should have called an offensive pass interference penalty on Seattle that would have ended the game, but supported the referees’ decision not to overturn the ruling on the catch.
Goodell also declined to grade the replacements, saying that wasn’t part of his duties. But he warned fans that mistakes will still happen, even with the return of the veterans.
“It’s not realistic to think that officiating will be perfect,” he said.
Much as it was after the Monday game, Twitter was buzzing with discussion of the deal. For a while, in the early morning, the name of one of the NFL’s more iconic officials, the heavily muscled Ed Hochuli, was one of the most-discussed topics among Twitter users in the United States.
“I’ve never been more excited to see another man’s biceps than this Sunday to see Ed Hochuli back officiating,” a Twitter user named Robby Donoho wrote. “It’s. About. Time.”
CNN’s Javi Morgado and Joseph Miller contributed to this report.
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