Romney muffs question about NFL refs' lockout

"I sure hope they do," the Republican presidential nominee said early Thursday afternoon in response to a reporter's question about the referees' return after an agreement was reached with the league over pension and other benefits.

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The NFL referees' lockout had become a major problem for the league, and a story that had everyone from President Obama to Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), calling for their return.

Team owners and the referees' union reached an agreement on differences late Wednesday, and the referees will return for the Baltimore Ravens-Cleveland Browns game Thursday night.

Romney weighed in on the issue himself on Tuesday after a blown call by replacement referees gave the Seattle Seahawks a win over the Green Bay Packers.

"I'd sure like to see some experienced referees, some with NFL experience, come back out to the NFL playing fields," Romney said Tuesday evening in an interview with CNN.

On Tuesday, Obama also weighed in on the NFL referee lockout.

"And I say this as a Bears fan, who obviously is never heartbroken when the Packers lose, but it’s not just this game," Obama told the Des Moines Register. "We’ve seen that over the last several months. We need to go ahead and get this resolved and I think that is a bipartisan position."