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Owners End Officials Lockout, Fans Locked Into Same Rulebook

While bringing the regular officiating crews back is what needed to happen, the rulebook itself, and its convoluted nature, still exists, leaving us with many of the same pre-lockout complaints.

Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The officials lockout is over, and now we can get back to the referees who interpret things like the Calvin Johnson Rule and roughing the passer.

Lest we forget it wasn't the officials who brought in a litany of strange and pro-offensive rule changes. It's the same owners we have vilified over the past few weeks of the Replacement Era.

It may be an improvement overall but Tommy Maddox was an improvement overall from Kordell Stewart. The same kinds of issues between the officials and the fans continues to exist.

The Inaccurate Reception in Seattle is one thing. What about the rule that apparently exists that field goals aren't reviewable? Hate to break it to Ravens fans (and not to support Patriots fans), but that field goal at the end of their sloppy defense-less game in Week 3 was just as close as any Knee Is Down vs. Ball Is Over The Plane situation they review time and again.

Rule 11, Section 4, Article 2 paragraph b of the rulebook says "The entire ball must pass through the vertical plane of the goal, which is the area above the crossbar and between the uprights, or, if above the uprights, between their outside edges."

I can't blame the officials for struggling to see that. The ball is traveling at upwards of 30 miles per hour, and they're required to stare 30 feet in the air directly above them into a black sky, not fully knowing when the ball will cross the imaginary plane of the continued upright, knowing it will cross that plane for approximately one quarter of one second.

This isn't suggesting there's absolutely no way the kick was good, but it sure was close; close enough where it seems odd every touchdown is automatically reviewed, but no field goals are. Bill Belichick's arm-grab cost him $50,000, but there still is no review in place for that call.

Even with the inflation-adjusted fines going from $15,000 to $21,000 this year, hits on defenseless receivers - which is not the same as simply hitting an offensive player with your helmet - still occur at roughly the same rate they used to. Steelers safety Ryan Mundy has been slapped with one of those, along with Lawrence Timmons.

Sort of ironically, the replacement officials called the two most obvious hits from Steelers players that fell outside the rules half the time - a penalty on Timmons, no penalty on Mundy, and both were fined.

If any fan base knows the Flagless Fine Phenomenon, it's the Steelers. And replacement officials had nothing to do with that, either.

So before we break out the champagne early on Thirsty Thursday, let's just keep in mind while the facilitators of the convoluted rule book the NFL has been re-creating over the last decade are but one part of the over-arching problem. We'll all get back to complaining about the officials soon enough.

Just wait until after tonight's Baltimore at Cleveland game.