The NFL's three-week-long referee lockout officially came to an end Thursday night when Gene Steratore and his crew came out of the tunnel and stepped onto the field at M&T Bank Stadium to the loudest ovation an officiating crew has probably every heard. Shortly after, Steratore & Co. began tipping their caps and acknowledging the crowd like returning war veterans being saluted upon their return home from overseas. To be honest, I stood in my living room and clapped too because this puts into perspective just how out of hand things had gotten with the replacement refs in just three weeks of regular play.

Maybe this whole episode will make us appreciate the refs more after realizing how close the game we love came to being reduced to a complete joke.

Throughout the game, flags were thrown and pushing ensued, but this is the NFL after all, right? Bottom line, there was a sense of calmness and control that you could literally feel through the TV, and the game went perfectly more or less, from an officiating stand point. The Ravens won, the Browns lost and it feels like football has finally returned this Fall.  Hopefully when we look back on this lockout years down the road, it will be no more than a black eye for the NFL. But let's not be so quick to forget how Roger Goodell and the fat-cat owners were ready to forsake the integrity of the game, player safety and above all, our overall enjoyment as fans.  We don't want your BS apology or explanations. Just be lucky it was only voice-mails that were left for you and not rocks through your window.

Rejoice football fans. The game we love is back, but be weary of the future because as DJ Quick would say, "If it don't make dollars, it don't make sense."

RELATED: Breaking Down the Ramifications and Reasons Behind the NFL Referee Lockout

[via Business Insider]

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