Bernard Pollard Might Bear Hug Refs

When Ravens safety Bernard Pollard heard the news that the NFL and NFL Referees Association (NFLRA) were close to a deal he threw both hands up in the air.

"They're back!" he jubilantly exclaimed.

Yes, the usual referees are back, and they’ll be in Baltimore tonight for the Thursday Night Football game against the Cleveland Browns.

Gene Steratore, who is beginning his 10th season in the NFL, will lead tonight's seven-man crew. The other six referees have a combined 60 years of league experience.

They should watch out for Ravens safety Bernard Pollard.

"I might bear hug one of them," Pollard said with a laugh. "When I do see them, I'm pretty sure we're going to let them have it a little bit."

Pollard joined in the chorus around the nation in saying the agreement is big for the league. The outspoken veteran had cried out against the use of replacement refs on a few occasions already this season. He said he felt a sense of relief.

"For it to go four preseason games and three regular-season games, [it had] gotten out of hand," Pollard said.

Wide receiver Jacoby Jones, who was flagged for a controversial offensive pass interference penalty in Week 2, also gave his take on the refs coming back.

"Yes, in the face!" he said, explaining that he is referring to a scene from the movie "Coming To America."

Other Ravens players also reacted on Twitter:

"Woke up to find out the new refs are back!" wide receiver Torrey Smith tweeted. "I've never been excited about refs before I think I might give the first one I see a bear hug haha"

"Real refs are back. sweet! but Don't expect them to be brilliant the first few weeks. Still an upgrade," linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo said.

The NFLRA says 121 referees have been trained on the new rules and are ready to go.

Now will the players have more empathy when they make a call players disagree with?

"We understand more of what the refs are going through," Pollard said. "As far as the time they've spent in the league, the hours they've put in watching film, understanding what they need to do and how they need to do it. The crews that they have, these guys work together for a reason. I think we appreciate it that much more."

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