Fans cheer return of regular refs as Ravens top Browns 23-16

Gene Steratore and his crew got a standing ovation Thursday night in Baltimore.

Fans in Baltimore cheered the return of the regular referees when the officials walked on the field Thursday ahead of last night’s game that Baltimore’s Ravens won over the Cleveland Browns 23-16. Just hours after the NFL’s lockout of the refs ended at midnight, the officiating crew got a round of applause as they walked on the field, and two of them tipped their caps to acknowledge the support. Then, before the pregame coin flip, referee Gene Steratore greeted the players by saying, “Good evening, men, it’s good to be back,” and many in the crowd stood and cheered. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco went 28 for 46 for 356 yards in the game, threw one touchdown and ran for another. Browns QB Brandon Weeden went 25 for 52 for 320 yards as the Browns fell to 0-4.  Earlier in the day, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apologized to fans unhappy over the use of replacement officials for the first three weeks of the season. Speaking on a conference call, Goodell said, “Obviously when you go through something like this it is painful for everybody. Most importantly, it is painful for our fans. We are sorry to have to put our fans through that, but it is something that in the short term you sometimes have to do to make sure you get the right kind of deal for the long term and make sure you continue to grow the game.”