Happy Friday, Broncos fans! As expected, the first group of real officials were welcomed back heartily last night, as Gene Steratore's crew was given a standing ovation before the game.
Steratore even got hugs from Ravens coach John Harbaugh and linebacker Ray Lewis, and safety Bernard Pollard says the players have a new appreciation for the skill of the regular refs.
Before the game, Roger Goodell apologized to the fans, but framed the lockout as something that had to happen, and even summoned up the nerve to call the craptastic officiating as part of the "beauty of sports."
Judy Battista reports that indeed, progress in negotiations had been made prior to Monday, so there was actually a possibility of a deal before the game-deciding blown call. But according to her sources, owners Jerry Richardson of the Panthers and Woody Johnson of the Jets were among the owners digging their heels in on Tuesday, while the Patriots' Robert Kraft and Giants owner John Mara - often described as key moderates during last year's player lockout - were more concerned with the impact of using scab officials.
Another owner, speaking anonymously, said the entire lockout was about ideology more than it was about finances. It was not about improving officiating (if there's still anyone buying that line), or about making a significant dent on the bottom line. It was about the owners not wanting referees to have pensions, on principle.
Oh, but the Ginger Hammer doesn't have a pension, so why should the refs? We'd love to know how many of the people who are offended by how much these officials make, are also okay with Goodell making $10M a year to be a mouthpiece for ownership.
To that end, Drew Magary wonders why there are even commissioners anymore, with sports leagues here having grown to financial behemoths where owners truly don't care about the game itself.
Mike Florio put his nose back up Goodell's ass, incredibly suggesting the Commish deserves a raise.
Now that they're back, PFR has revealed an insane collection of data on the referees, including even the scabs.
Unsurprisingly, the one-game suspension of Joe Mays was upheld, which means Danny Trevathan and Stephen Johnson will almost assuredly be taking their first defensive snaps of the season on Sunday. The absence of Mays could be an issue in the running game, even if he has struggled in defending it himself.
In other suspension news, Mike Klis says D.J. Williams is expected to get another two or three games piled onto his current six-game ban, for his DWAI conviction.
Tracy Porter insists that his knee was injured, and says taking him out of the game Sunday was surely the right decision; Pete Prisco goes to the All-22 to again show how Porter should have had help on Andre Johnson's long touchdown.
Naturally, Champ is disgusted that Denver hasn't beaten Oakland at home since 2007, which was when Shanny started that terrible habit of trolling kickers with last-moment timeouts.
Andre Caldwell says he expects to play Sunday for the first time this season; Matthew Willis, Nate Irving, and Quinton Carter did not practice; Willis McGahee and Chris Kuper were limited.
PFF's grades say the Denver offensive line should overpower Oakland's puzzlingly disappointing pass rush, and that Peyton Manning should have some open receivers to throw to.
The team has declared this an Orange Sunday, but now that the team is back to rightfully wearing orange jerseys, shouldn't every Sunday be orange?
Pete Morelli's crew will officiate Sunday's game; of course, everyone at Dove Valley is happy to see the real refs back.
Darrent Williams would have turned 30 years old yesterday. RIP, D-Will.
Dennis Allen has Oakland taking fewer penalties, but that's probably just the influence of crappy officiating.
As we've noted, TE Brandon Myers has excelled so far for Oakland; Andre Carter practiced yesterday and could play a few snaps Sunday for his birthright enemy.
Baltimore defeated Cleveland 23-16 thanks to two Joe Flacco touchdowns and a pick-six by Cary Williams.
New England released TE Kellen Winslow at his request, with Aaron Hernandez apparently getting back to health; Cincy brought back veteran safety Chris Crocker and released TE Donald Lee; St. Louis claimed T Joe Barksdale off waivers from the Raiders.
Former Broncos Tom Nalen and John Lynch are among the first-time nominees for the HOF; Terrell Davis, Rod Smith, Karl Mecklenburg, Steve Atwater, Dennis Smith, and Dan Reeves were again nominated.
Goodell will meet with Browns Scott Fujita today to discuss the LB's bounty-related suspension. ESPN is continuing its campaign against the Saints, and apparently have been pursuing a character study of Jonathan Vilma, who hit back by going to Twitter with the contact info for ESPN producer Barry Abrams.
Mike Tanier says that as much as NFL coaches love to talk about running the ball and stopping the run, their actions make quite clear it's a passing game.
Ben Stockwell breaks down the play of Chiefs LB Justin Houston against the Saints; from that same game, Matt Bowen analyzes Stanford Routt's interception of Drew Brees; Ben Muth studies their offensive line play; Kevin Grauel looks ahead to Chiefs/Chargers.
Brandon Marshall offered a half-assed apology to Warren Sapp for his video takedown of Sapp; BMarsh says he meant everything he said, but should have done so more privately.
KSK's latest Sex/FF mailbag.
Over at Food52, an excellent collection of egg-cooking methods.