NEW YORK (AP) - NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apologized to the fans who fretted through three weeks of replacement officials calling their favorite teams' games.
"Obviously when you go through something like this, it's painful for everybody. Most importantly, it's painful for fans," he said on a conference call Thursday, about 12 hours after the league reached a deal to bring back the regular officials. "We're sorry to have to put fans through that. Sometimes you have to go through something like that in the short term for the right agreement for the long term."
Two days after a missed call on the final play cost the Green Bay Packers in their "Monday Night Football" loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the NFL and the officials' union announced a tentative eight-year agreement to end a lockout that began in June.
The regular officials will return for Thursday night's Browns-Ravens game. Goodell insisted the two sides were already in "intense negotiations" the last two weeks and that the Monday night mess was not a major factor in completing a deal.
"It may have pushed the parties along," he said.
But he dismissed assertions that the presence of replacement officials increased the chances an egregious mistake would occur. Goodell repeatedly reminded reporters that the regular officials have botched plenty of calls over the years.
The new agreement, he said, will improve officiating week in and week out, reducing similar mistakes in the future and making the strains of the last three weeks worthwhile.
"You're always worried about the short-term impact on your brand and the long-term impact on the brand," he said. "Obviously this has gotten a lot of attention and it hasn't been positive. It's something you have to fight through and get to the long term."