Updated at 10:34 a.m. with tonight’s crew
The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns are the participants in tonight’s NFL game and — glory hallelujah and saints preserve us — the regular referees will be back working the game.
The NFL and the NFL Referees Association reached agreement on an eight-year deal last last night that will return the regulars to the field immediately and, frankly, it can’t come soon enough after three rugged, controversial weeks of officiating by replacement refs threatened the integrity of the game. Have you ever missed another human being as much as you’ve missed Ed Hochuli?
(Fair warning to the crew working tonight’s game: Watch out for Torrey Smith. The Ravens’ wide receiver tweeted this morning: “Woke up to find out the new refs are back! I’ve never been excited about refs before I think I might give the first one I see a bear hug haha.”)
In an effort to minimize rust that may have accumulated since the lockout began in June, Hochuli (who else?) led refs through a boot camp (what else?) to prepare them for the moment they got the nod to come back to work. Every Tuesday night, SI’s Peter King reports, Hochuli, the league’s best-known, buffest, biceps-iest ref, has been holding rules-related conference calls, with 90-110 of the 121 officials participating.
“That’s one of the reasons why the officials will be up to date and ready to go,” an unnamed officiating source told King. “Ed grabbed the bull by the horns and made sure that whenever this thing ended, the regular officials would be ready to go back to work immediately.”
Pity the bull.
I asked Ed Hochuli how many curls he’s been doing: “As soon as I heard the rumors today, I got down on the floor and started doing pushups.”
— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) September 27, 2012
Just found out Ed Hochuli an the boys are back!glad u all reached a deal.knock the rust off tonight guys an we’ll see u Sunday in ny!!boom
— Randy Moss (@RandyMoss) September 27, 2012
By mid-morning, Hochuli had become the face of the lockout, much to his amazement. “Why does it matter if I have a reaction?” Hochuli told Darlington. “Why? Who am I? My kid told me I’m trending on Twitter. What does that even mean?”
Update: The crew working the Browns-Ravens game will be referee Gene Steratore, umpire Bill Schuster, headlinesman Wayne Mackie, line judge Jeff Seeman, field judge Bob Waggoner, side judge Jimmy De Bell, and back judge Greg Steed.