|On Thursday, this group, for the first time in NFL history, will include a woman. (Getty Images)|
The replacement officials made their debut in Sunday's Hall of Fame Game, and save a botched coin toss (hey, it's happened before with the full-timers) and a missed holding call in the end zone in the first quarter that would've given the Saints two points, the experience wasn't unlike a typical week in the NFL. Which is to say: despite concerns, the game didn't collapse under the weight of incompetent officiating as some (like, say, us) feared.
For now, the NFL continues to lock out the full-time officials and will move forward with their replacements. According to the Los Angeles Times' Sam Farmar, when the Packers face the Chargers Thursday, Shannon Eastin will make history as the first woman to be part of an NFL officiating crew. Eastin has worked Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference games as well as the Arizona Cardinals' Red and White game, and the Times had previously identified her as one of the referees at an NFL training clinic.
Last August, Carl Johnson, the NFL's head of officials, said that he expected to hire a female official. "We have some in our pipeline, and I expect we'll see it soon."
The man who had Johnson's job before he did, Mike Pereira, said last week that the integrity of the game was at stake with the full-time officials currently locked out.
"Now you're going to get a group of people out there with no experience," Pereira noted during an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show, "and you've got such a mix of people -- some with barely more than high school experience, you've got guys that have been out of the game for years, you've got guys that have officiated in the lingerie football league … you've got such a mix right now that it's not good for the game."
Meanwhile, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sounded unconcerned. "We can do it," he said Friday. "We've done it before, and this time we'll have close to three months training before doing that, if it's necessary."
Through one meaningless preseason game, the replacement officials have held their own. Whether that's the exception or the rule is another story, although CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco thinks the whole thing has been overblown.
Replacement officials: This summer's overblown story. Cowboys scoreboard, kickoff moving back. On and on it goes. Never matters in end.— Pete Prisco (@PriscoCBS) August 6, 2012
Whatever the circumstances, Eastin gets her opportunity Thursday.
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