By RACHEL COHEN, AP Sports Writer
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 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.
Goodell insisted the timing of the deal was not a reaction to the outcry over "Monday Night Football." The two sides had been in "intensive negotiations" the last two weeks, he said, though he acknowledged that game "may have pushed the parties along."
The commissioner was watching at home Monday night.
"You never want to see a game end like that," Goodell said.
But he wouldn't concede 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."
In the meantime, he asserted, players' health and safety were never jeopardized by the use of replacement officials.
"The folks on the field during the last three weeks were under unprecedented scrutiny," Goodell said. "Everything they did, every call was magnified. They kept the game going. They worked and they trained hard. They were incredibly focused and dedicated."
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