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Sarah Thomas will become the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl

Sarah Thomas was part of the seven-person on-field Super Bowl crew announced Tuesday.
Sarah Thomas was part of the seven-person on-field Super Bowl crew announced Tuesday.Sean M. Haffey/Getty

Next month, Sarah Thomas will become the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl.

The NFL on Tuesday announced its officiating crew for Super Bowl LV, and Thomas is slated to be the down judge Feb. 7 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

“Sarah Thomas has made history again as the first female Super Bowl official,” Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, said in a statement released by the league. “Her elite performance and commitment to excellence has earned her the right to officiate the Super Bowl. Congratulations to Sarah on this well-deserved honor.”

Thomas, 47, has been an NFL official for six seasons and has worked four postseason games. She became the first woman to be a full-time NFL game official when the league announced her hiring in 2015. Before that, she had officiated college football games in Conference USA since 2007, and she participated in the NFL’s officiating development program in 2013 and 2014.

She was not the first woman to officiate in an NFL game. Shannon Eastin worked three games as a line judge early in the 2012 season when the NFL used replacement officials during a labor dispute with the NFL Referees Association.

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The NFL makes Super Bowl assignments after grading officials on their regular-season performance. Previous playoff officiating experience also is taken into consideration. Super Bowl officials generally have worked a game earlier during that year’s postseason but not either of the conference championship games.

Thomas is part of the eight-person officiating crew, which has seven on-field officials and a replay official. Carl Cheffers will lead the crew as the referee. It will be the second Super Bowl assignment for Cheffers, who has been an NFL official for 21 seasons and has worked 17 postseason games.

Thomas’s appointment comes a year after the NFL had a record five Black officials among the seven-member on-field crew for last season’s Super Bowl.

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Ingram released

Three-time Pro Bowl running back Mark Ingram was released by the Baltimore Ravens, who used the 10-year veteran as a starter for the first seven games this season before dropping him deep on the depth chart.

The 31-year-old Ingram was on the inactive list for four of Baltimore’s last five games, including playoff matchups against Tennessee and Buffalo. He finished with 299 yards on a career-low 72 carries and two touchdowns.

By the time Ingram sprained an ankle in a 30-28 win at Philadelphia on Oct. 18, the Ravens had already been providing most of the carries to Gus Edwards and rookie J.K. Dobbins. Ingram returned on Nov. 15 and received only 22 carries the rest of the way.

Mark Ingram was a three-time Pro Bowler.
Mark Ingram was a three-time Pro Bowler.Terrance Williams/Associated Press

“I know Mark wants to be out there and he wants to be carrying the rock,” coach John Harbaugh said on Dec. 21. “But he’s been great about it.”

Ingram’s release was announced Tuesday, one day after he foreshadowed the move on Twitter.

“Thank you [owner] Mr. Steve Bisciotti and the Ravens for being a first class organization,” Ingram wrote. “... Best is ahead, can’t wait!”

Nielsen changes mind

Saints defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen informed LSU that he will not take the Tigers’ defensive coordinator job after initially agreeing in principle to do to so, two people familiar with the situation said. The people spoke to the AP Tuesday on condition on anonymity because negotiations had not been made public by LSU or the Saints. A person told the AP on Monday that Nielsen had agreed in principle to take the LSU position, but that some outstanding contract issues still needed to be resolved. Nielsen has been the defensive line coach for all four on the Saints’ NFC South-winning squads from 2017-20 … The Falcons named Terry Fontenot the team’s first Black general manager, and team owner Arthur Blank said it’s the kind of hire that will eventually also create more opportunities for NFL minority coaches. The 40-year-old Fontenot joins Atlanta following 18 seasons with NFC South rival New Orleans. Fontenot helped build a consistent winner as the Saints’ vice president and assistant GM in charge of pro personnel. The Falcons fired general manager Thomas Dimitroff and coach Dan Quinn following a 0-5 start this season, which led to a 4-12 finish, Atlanta’s third consecutive losing season … A South Florida-based performance facility founded by former star wide receiver Brandon Marshall will try to help fill the void left by the NFL not allowing in-person workouts for the scouting combine because of the coronavirus pandemic. House of Athlete announced the performance facility will be hosting its own combine for players preparing for this year’s draft. Up to 50 players will have the chance from March 3-5 to show off their skills for teams, with the event expected to be broadcast live … The NFL said the latest round of COVID-19 testing turned up three positive tests among players and six among other personnel as the Super Bowl nears. In weeklong testing that ended Saturday, 3,888 tests were given to 590 players and 5,985 were administered to 1,016 personnel.

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