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papz 09-28-2012 05:59 AM

Saints players happy to have officials back
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METAIRIE — Before each game, Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton makes it a habit to greet the officials, inquiring about things such as their families and home towns, all in the hope of getting a couple of calls later on.

But Sunday in Green Bay, he’s considering organizing his teammates into going down the line, hugging everyone in a striped shirt.

Getting the regular NFL crews back after a lockout that had produced massive criticism around the league in the season’s first three weeks over the competency of replacement officials will do that to you.

“There have been so many questionable calls,” Lofton said Thursday at the Saints’ practice facility. “It’s going to be refreshing to get the guys who have been reffing the games for so many years back out there.

“Maybe we can finally get some consistency back.”

The lockout ended late Wednesday after two days of negotiating that resulted in an eight-year agreement that no one believes will be allowed to expire again.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apologized to the fans Thursday, saying the controversy on the field, which came to a head Monday in Seattle’s disputed Hail Mary pass that beat the Packers “was painful for everybody.”

To Saints wide receiver Devery Henderson, if the situation had not been resolved, it would have been even worse this week, especially in Green Bay where Packers’ fans were outraged by the Monday night call.

“There was going to be a lot of pressure on those guys, especially from the Green Bay fans,” he said. “You were seeing calls that affected the outcome of the games.

“You just hope they can get back to the level we’re used to.”

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