"In two weeks, this will be forgotten," he said, "and we'll be back to criticizing the regular referees."
Actually, it probably won't take two weeks before the regular officials are criticized, because there no doubt will be questionable calls well before that.
Ravens fans greeted the men in stripes with a standing ovation before Thursday night's game against the Browns, but they booed a holding call in the first quarter. That scene is likely to be repeated at stadiums throughout the league as the regular officials return.
But it is unlikely that fans soon will forget the officiating chaos of the first three weeks of the season, particularly the final play of Monday night's Seahawks-Packers game, won by Seattle when officials ruled that wide receiver Golden Tate had scored a touchdown. Replays showed that Packers safety M.D. Jennings intercepted the pass.
There never has been anything quite like this in NFL history, but Mara believes things will be better in the long run.
"Every year, there are calls that go against teams, and it's not just limited to the replacement officials," he said. "It's a good long-term deal we got, and now we can go back to focusing on the game."
The previous lockout of officials occurred during the 2001 season. But that lasted only one week as the two sides negotiated an agreement shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks forced the cancellation of the following weekend's games.
The reaction from the fans this year was intense and relentless, reaching a fever pitch after the Seahawks-Packers game. But the criticism ultimately forced the NFL to relent sufficiently on demands made by the officials' union, and a deal was struck almost 48 hours to the minute after the final play of the Monday night game.
"Our primary concern is making sure we get what is good for the game," said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who was roundly criticized for allowing the labor disagreement to continue into the regular season. "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."
Actually, it is a testament to the immense popularity of the sport that the officiating situation received so much attention. The controversy over the Tate play touched a nerve, and it reverberated not only through the passionate sports community but into just about every corner of society. Even President Barack Obama weighed in on the situation, and the replacement officials turned into one giant punch line for late-night comedians.
The spike in criticism was palpable. In a Seton Hall University poll, 41 percent of 688 randomly selected respondents across the country replied on Monday that the quality of NFL games had suffered because of the officiating. By Tuesday (after the Packers-Seahawks game), that figure jumped to 65 percent.
"The impact of that one moment in that one game can't be overstated," said Rick Gentile, director of the poll, which is conducted by the Sharkey Institute. "It was a defining moment. The NFL felt the shift in mood of its public. Everyone felt it; the game changed the mood of the American public."
And now we move on, welcoming back the regular officials and getting ready to criticize the inevitable controversial calls that are sure to arise, as Mara suggests. But even if some of the calls are bound to be wrong, all is right with NFL officiating again.