The first woman to officiate an NFL game (outside of a replacement referee during last season's lockout) may be one step closer.
According to the New Orleans Saints' official website Sarah Thomas, who has worked games in Conference USA since 2007, is working Saints' practice on Thursday as part of the National Football League's Officiating Development Program.
Thomas is a finalist to become a permanent game official. During the NFL officials' lockout last season, Shannon Eastin technically became the first female official to take the field when she worked on exhibition game.
According to Gulflive.com, Thomas worked at the Colts' mini-camp earlier this offseason and could don the black and white stripes in the NFL as soon as 2014.
"There are 21 of us, and it's an opportunity to get some snaps at the National Football League level and go through a training program with them," Thomas told NewOrleansSaints.com. "Then we'll go back and work our respective colleges, and then we'll be evaluated at the end of the season."
The Louisiana native became the first female to officiate in a Division I bowl game in 2009 (the Little Caesar's Bowl in Detroit). She began her career officiating high school football in 1999.
"When I got started in this 17 years ago, I had no idea that there weren’t any females officiating,” Thomas told ABC News. “I never set out to become the first female official in the NFL."
"I'm just glad to be an official, wherever that may be, and just want to do the best job I can do,” she said.