FOXBORO -- The inconsistencies of the replacement referees seemed to break both ways during the NFL season's first three weeks. On one play, players might get away with an extra hold here, or a bump of a receiver there. On another, the slightest of infractions might get whistled.
Now that the league's referee lockout is over, the regular officials are back, and with them -- presumably -- more consistent rulings on certain penalties.
But how will the arrival of the league's regular officials change the way players play? Did players try to take advantage of the replacement officials who couldn't keep up with the game's pace? Or were players forced to try to cater to a new set of standards so that they wouldn't be flagged?
"I can't say that I did or didn't," Matthew Slater said when asked if he saw players trying to get away with more during the first three weeks.
"When you start thinking about the calls being made, and thinking that you're going to be jipped by a call then it affects the way you play the game. You live by the law of the land. If they're holding and grabbing, then you just gotta play through it. That's what we had to do and that's what we'll continue to have to do."
Rob Ninkovich said calls made by the replacement officials didn't change how he approached games.
"Everything's going at a real fast pace out there," he said. "You're just trying to play ball. Sometimes things happen. Sometimes the flag's thrown. Sometimes it's not, even when there was the old refs. What it comes down to at the end of the day is it's playing football. You can't really worry about the flags."
Slater said he'd be watching Thursday Night's game between the Ravens and the Browns, but not to see how the new officials change the game.
"I'll be watching the game to see the players play the game," he said. "I'm sure it'll be discussed by the commentators and other people, the networks and things like that. But like I said, nobody's to blame in this situation. It was a tough situation for all parties involved, and now that it's resolved we can move forward."