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Female official Shannon Eastin would like to get an NFL spot eventually

Shannon Eastin, who will become the first woman to officiate an NFL game tomorrow night, said her ultimate goal is to become a regular NFL official.

"There's been a lot of talk that the NFL is wanting to bring in a female and, quite frankly, this could be the opportunity," Eastin, who will be a line judge tomorrow when Green Bay plays at San Diego on ESPN, said on a conference call yesterday.

"I felt it is something I needed to do, make that step and see what comes from there."

Eastin, 42, is entering her 17th season as a football official and has spent the last four seasons as a referee in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. She is serving as a replacement official while the NFL Referees Association remains locked out because of a continuing labor dispute with the NFL.

"I am honored that the NFL has chosen to place me in this position," she said. "I feel blessed. There is a little nervous anticipation, but this is very exciting for me."

Eastin said her biggest challenge is adjusting to different rules. "We have been spending a lot of time on the rules," she said. "There are some rules that are really different from college . . . The speed of the game, they say, is going to be quite different."

An NFL line judge straddles the line of scrimmage on the side of the field opposite the linesman. The line judge keeps the time of game as a backup for the clock operator and is responsible for offside and encroachment violations.

Eastin said she isn't worried about whether her status as a replacement official will affect her viability. "I am just going to continue to do what I have been doing. I am going to work with the NFL as long as they need me," she said.

She said she understands the added scrutiny she will be under. "I think knowing I am a female in a man's world, I always put more pressure on myself," she said. "I know what I signed up for, and that what I do is magnified."

Eastin said she is not worried about any backlash from the locked-out officials. "Hopefully, there is some understanding on their part I have got to do what's in the best interest of myself," Eastin said, "just as they have to do what is in their best interest."

New York Sports