"For those replacement refs, it was like going from Pop Warner to the big leagues," Rice said. "They were good. We got to play. They took care of business. I don't think they missed too many. We talked to them with respect. You see these guys on Sundays and you give them a level of respect. When you get used to seeing guys, the respect goes up."'
Added Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo: "Real refs are back. Sweet! Don't expect them to be brilliant the first few weeks. Still an upgrade."
The game seemed to flow better with fewer interruptions and more confidence from the players, coaches and fans in the officials' judgment.
"The biggest thing is I think the game probably went a little bit smoother and a little bit more seamless and things like that, moved along a little bit," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "Calls were made and everything went a little bit smoother."
"Those guys are pros," Harbaugh said. "These guys are really good. The communication was good. I didn't agree with every call. They were excellent. I think we're all kind of on the same page from a consistency standpoint."
The new deal calls for referees' salaries to increase from $149,000 per year in 2011 to $173,000 by 2013 and up to $205,000 by 2019.
The deal has to still be ratified by the NFLRA membership as officials will meet Friday and Saturday in Dallas to vote. Once that happens, a clinic is expected to take place to review rule changes and trends.
"I'm really going to miss the replacement officials," former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason said sarcastically. "I was starting to get very close to them. I hope they're not too scarred. People don't understand how tough it is to referee an NFL game with the lunatics playing the game.
"For about a minute, everything will be fine. All it takes is one bad call and then we're all back to normal again, but these guys know what they're doing."