hater: pffffffft AJ hasn’t done anything relevant post WWE AJ: *writing a book, donating to ASPCA, helping with Girls Make Games foundation, collab with Beautiful Disaster clothing line, NFL Madden ‘16 promo commercial AND the actual video game* hater: but.. me:
NFL makes it official, hires Sarah Thomas as first full-time female official
The NFL made it official Tuesday, hiring its first full-time female on-field official. Sarah Thomas will join the NFL as a line judge.
A Mississippi native, Thomas was the first woman to officiate a college football bowl game and had previously officiated at NFL camps and practices.
Thomas will be a line judge for the 2015 season, the league announced Wednesday. She’s proud to serve as an example that anyone can succeed in any endeavor. But breaking down barriers was just a byproduct of her goals, not the goal itself.
Thomas expects to still wear her hair tucked inside her cap. She started doing it on a suggestion that it would keep her from sticking out, though these days it’s more about habit than an attempt to blend in.
“I think my hair’s the least of my concerns,” Thomas said, laughing.
“I know that I will probably stand out being the first,” she added, “but as far as players and coaches, I’ve been around a good little while, and I think they know who I am and just want to make sure I can do my job.”
Thomas was in the league’s officiating development program in 2013 and ’14 and has worked at minicamps, training camps and exhibition games. She has officiated for Conference USA since 2007, with assignments including the Senior Bowl, the Pizza Bowl, the Fight Hunger Bowl, the Medal of Honor Bowl, and the league championship game in 2010 and ’14.
Thomas officiated two seasons in the United Football League, which is now out of business.
“If you look at Sarah’s background and her journey to get here, this is not something that happened overnight,” said Dean Blandino, the NFL’s vice president of officiating. “She’s been officiating 20 years and been on our radar screen for 8-9 years.”
Thomas worked a Ravens preseason game last year, and coach John Harbaugh said that “she might be one of the better ones we’ve had.”
“She’s a good ref,” he added, “so it was a good choice.”
Shannon Eastin worked regular-season NFL games in 2012 as a replacement official, making her the first woman to do so in any capacity. She also was a line judge.
Thomas played softball and basketball growing up and earned a college hoops scholarship to NAIA University of Mobile. She was always around football and inspired to become an official when she attended a meeting with one of her brothers. The NFL was never the goal back then, but once she got into it, her natural competitiveness kicked in.
In 1996, Thomas became the first woman to officiate in a Division 1-A high school game in Mississippi. Less than a decade later, she was hired by Conference USA, working as a line judge and head linesman.
She said she hadn’t experienced any problems with coaches or players.
“Everyone has been very professional and looked at me as another official,” Thomas said.
NFL officials are part time, so Thomas’ day job is as a pharmaceutical representative. She was already used to a heavy travel schedule with the college game. Thomas and her husband have three children: 14- and 11-year-old sons and a 2-year-old daughter.
Like any official moving up from the college to the pro level, she expects the greatest challenge will be the speed of the game. The preseason can’t quite replicate the real thing, but she and Blandino are confident she’s got the quick reaction time she’ll need to monitor the line of scrimmage.
Thomas got her call from Blandino last Thursday, and she can tell you the exact time: 10:47 a.m.
She was one of nine first-year officials announced Wednesday. The group includes side judge Walt Coleman IV, the son of NFL referee Walt Coleman. The Colemans will become the third active father-son officiating duo, joining Ed and Shawn Hochuli and Steve and Brad Freeman.
The other new officials are line judge Kevin Codey from the American Athletic Conference; head linesmen Hugo Cruz of Conference USA and Bart Longson of the Pac-12; umpire Clay Martin of C-USA; side judges Aaron Santi of the Pac-12 and Jabir Walker of the SEC; and field judge Shawn Smith of the Big Ten.
-CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY COULDN’T BE SET UP ANY BETTER-
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady one more time with the Super Bowl on the line would have been good enough all by itself.
But in the embarrassment of riches that is the NFL this season, we get more. Much more.
Two young superstar quarterbacks in the making squaring off in Seattle. Wes Welker against the team that wanted him no longer, and Anquan Boldin taking his new team on another championship run. A sideshow with Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh that might be worth the price of admission by itself.
And a Super Bowl that will be a winner even if it’s played on a sheet of ice.
If this was the NBA, David Stern would have been accused of having the fix in. But it’s just more of the same for the NFL, where the story lines and matchups are so good that it’s almost a foregone conclusion next Sunday’s TV ratings will blow past anything seen before for conference title games that are always big.
About the only thing missing is a scrappy team of underdogs fighting for a berth in the Super Bowl, but there’s no reason to nitpick. Not with the quartet of teams that all went into the weekend as favorites and all survived to play another day.
The bookies in Vegas are laying odds — as they have all season long — that the Seattle Seahawks will play the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. But even they wouldn’t be terribly surprised if it was New England against the San Francisco 49ers or any combination in between.
The 49ers still playing is little surprise, even if they had to beat a team on the road they had lost to at home during the season. But beat the Carolina Panthers they did, winning their second straight playoff game away from home and seeming to take great delight in doing so.
If any team is a reflection of their coach it’s the 49ers, who will play a third straight NFC title game under Harbaugh. Colin Kaepernick even got into the act, mocking Cam Newton’s Superman pose after scoring a third-quarter touchdown, then adding his own signature bicep kiss to top things off.
Now forget that the 49ers were outclassed their last two trips to Seattle, losing by a combined margin of 71-16. It’s doubtful they’ll be intimidated by the rain or a raucous crowd that sends tremors through the earth (Saturday’s foot stomping win over New Orleans was recorded as a small earthquake) in a game that figures to be both bruising and bitterly contested.
John Fox won’t be intimidated either, despite having to go up against Bill Belichick and memories of a tough November loss to the Patriots to get to the title game. Fox seems the odd man out against the outsized coaching personalities left in the playoffs, but don’t forget that he’s the only coach who has won a playoff game with Tim Tebow under center.
Now he’s got Manning, who made up for the Broncos’ early exit last postseason against Baltimore with a couple of clutch third-down throws late in the fourth quarter just as Denver seemed to be once again in full meltdown mode. Manning also had the quote of the game when asked if it was weighing on his mind that he is nearing the end of his career and may not have many playoff chances left.
The game was barely over when Manning was asked for the first of what will be at least 562 times this week about his matchup with Brady, who has won 10 of the 14 games they’ve played against each other. Manning gave his usual our team against theirs answer, but this time he wasn’t just blowing smoke. Not after the Patriots scored 42 points to whip Indianapolis without Brady throwing even one touchdown pass as the Patriots took their all too familiar place in the AFC title game, and not when the Broncos are doing some running of their own.
Still, it figures to be all Manning against Brady, even if the best story of the postseason may be the one no one outside of the Boston area wants to hear. If there was ever a coach you love to hate it’s Belichick, but the ever grumpy guy under the hoodie has done a remarkable job in a year most expected New England to struggle.
With Welker gone and no tight ends left for Brady to throw to, Belichick was forced to reinvent the team on the fly. He did so by turning them into a run first team behind big LeGarrette Blount, who scored four touchdowns against the Colts and could be the breakout star of these playoffs.
The Super Bowl that will be played in three weeks at the Meadowlands has been the talk of football all season, and with good reason. It’s the first cold weather game to be played outdoors, and it could either be a spectacle or a debacle.
Two teams will get there eventually. But not before the NFL gives us one final Sunday to enjoy a pair of games so good they could be the ones we really remember.
Marshawn Lynch finally speaks, goes “Beast Mode” on media
Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch showed up at his final press conference of Super Bowl week and changed the script as he fired back at the media.
After two days of giving only scripted answers, Lynch gave his most extensive comments of Super Bowl week, mostly telling reporters why he won’t talk to them.
“Hey, look, I mean, all week I done told y’all what’s up. And for some reason, y’all continue to come back and do the same thing that y’all did,” Lynch said.
“I don’t know what story y’all trying to get out of me. I don’t know what image y’all trying to portray of me,” Lynch said Thursday. “But it don’t matter what y’all think, what y’all say about me because when I go home at night, the same people that I look in the face — my family that I love, that’s all that really matter to me. So y’all can go make up whatever y’all want to make up because I don’t say enough for y’all to go and put anything out on me.”
Lynch paused to laugh before continuing.
“So you all can go and make up whatever you want to make up, cause I don’t say enough for you all to go put anything out on me,” he added. “But I’ll come to y’all event and y’all shove cameras and microphones down my throat. When I’m at home in my environment, I don’t see y’all. But y’all mad at me. If y’all ain’t mad at me, then what are you all here for? I ain’t got nothing for y’all, though. I told y’all that.”
Like he did at his two previous media sessions this week, Lynch started a timer on his cell phone for five minutes. He referenced the countdown several times Thursday as he was peppered with a range of questions, requests for “shout outs” — “Shout out to Oakland,” Lynch said — and a request to say something in Spanish.
“Hola,” he said.
Lynch, who had snubbed reporters’ efforts to get him to talk at mandatory news conferences Tuesday and Wednesday, seemed frustrated that they were still trying.
“I’m here preparing for a game. And y’all want to ask me these questions, which is understandable. I could get down with that. But I told y’all. I’m not about to say nothing. All of my requirements are fulfilled.”
“So for the remainder of my three minutes, because I’m here, I’m available for you. I’m here available for y’all. I done talked. All of my requirements are fulfilled. So now for the next three minutes, I’ll just be looking at y’all, the way you’re looking at me. Thank you.”
Lynch praised his teammates, his hometown of Oakland, California, and his Family First Foundation. When asked who the best player on the Seahawks was, he said: “All of them.”
As he has all week, Lynch stayed five minutes before leaving.
At Media Day on Tuesday, Lynch repeated: “I’m just here so I don’t get fined” while talking to reporters.
On Wednesday, he replied to all questions with: “You know why I’m here.”
Lynch has a history of avoiding reporters. In November, the NFL fined him $50,000 for violations of the league’s media policy in addition to collecting the $50,000 fine that was imposed against Lynch for violations last season. The fine from 2013 was held in anticipation of future cooperation from Lynch.
The Professional Football Writers of America complained to the league about Tuesday’s session and Lynch had been apprised of a potential fine. A league spokesman declined comment.
Lynch again wore a “Beast Mode” baseball cap and told everyone where they could buy one. The two hats he already wore this week have sold out on Lynch’s website, where they’re part of his Beast Mode apparel line.