Originally posted on Helmet2Helmet  |  Last updated 6/18/13

Remember Shannon Eastin, the female replacement official who historically helped fill in during last year's referee lockout?

She opened the door, and now Sarah Thomas is gearing to kick it down.

The Associated Press recently reported that Thomas could become the NFL's first permanent female, possibly as soon as 2014.

"It's just something that happened," said Dean Blandino, the NFL's vice president of officiating. "She was in our pipeline for a while."

Like Eastin, Thomas, 39, cut her teeth in the collegiate ranks, becoming the first woman to officiate an NCAA football game in 2007.

More recently, she spent three days at Colts minicamp as part of the league's officiating development program. Thomas is slated to attend the Colts' training camp, and could work some of their preseason contests.

After she completes the program, Thomas will be eligible for a full-time refereeing gig, when one becomes available. In the meantime, she must pass background checks, interviews, and adjust to the speed of the NFL.

"It's similar from when a players jumps from college to the NFL," Blandino said. "Getting used to that type of speed is important."

Thomas seems ready to tackle the challenges ahead.

"The speed, yes, is there," Thomas said. "These are just phenomenal athletes on both sides of the ball. The game has a tendency to slow down the most snaps you get and repetition. So, hopefully, the more snaps I get, things will start slowing down a little bit."

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