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NFL notebook: NFL hires first full-time female official

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The Sports Xchange

The NFL hired Sarah Thomas as the league’s first full-time female official in a groundbreaking announcement Wednesday.

Thomas, who became the first female to officiate an NCAA football game in 2007, has previously been a finalist for an NFL job. She has been working in the NFL’s Officiating Development Program.

Thomas joins eight other referees granted first-time employment for league games. She initially will be a line judge.

“Our incoming officials have all demonstrated that they are among the best in college football,” NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said in a statement. “We are excited about having them join us.”

Thomas has done some sideline work for the Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts during minicamp practices in the past. She also officiated an NFL preseason game last August.

—The New York Jets signed linebacker Erin Henderson to a one-year contract, re-signed defensive end Leger Douzable to a one-year deal and reportedly agreed to terms with former New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley.

Henderson, 28, was released by the Minnesota Vikings in February 2014 after a DUI arrest in January. He also was arrested in November 2013 for DUI.

He didn’t play in the NFL in 2014, serving a four-game suspension as a free agent. He had 112 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions for the Vikings in 2013.

Douzable, 28, has been a key reserve on the Jets’ line over the past two seasons, recording four sacks and 60 tackles.

A third-round pick in 2011, Ridley rushed for 1,263 yards in 2012. He missed the final 10 games of the 2014 season and the Patriots’ run to the Super Bowl with a torn ACL.

—Defensive end George Johnson, a restricted free agent of the Detroit Lions, has signed a three-year, $9 million offer sheet with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

If the Lions do not match the offer by Monday, Johnson will return to the team for which he played his first two-plus seasons. The Bucs would not owe any draft compensation for Johnson.

Johnson, 27, had a breakout season in 2014, recording six sacks for the Lions.

—The Oakland Raiders on Wednesday announced the re-signing of 10 players, all restricted or exclusive-rights free agents.

The restricted free agents were wide receivers Andre Holmes and Rod Streater, safeties Larry Asante and Brandian Ross and punter Marquette King.

The exclusive-rights free agents were defensive end Denico Autry, tight end Brian Leonhardt, offensive tackle Matt McCants, fullback Jamize Olawale and cornerback Neiko Thorpe.

Holmes led the Raiders with 693 receiving yards in 2014, also posting career highs with 47 receptions and four touchdowns.

King has averaged 46.8 yards per punt in two seasons since replacing All-Pro Shane Lechler. After leading the NFL with a 48.9 average in 2013, King set franchise records in 2014 with 109 punts and 4,930 yards.

—Free agent wide receiver Wes Welker reportedly visited the Miami Dolphins on Wednesday.

Welker began his career with the Dolphins in 2004 and was traded to the New England Patriots in 2007. He played the past two seasons with the Denver Broncos.

Welker, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, had five seasons with at least 100 receptions in his time with the Patriots. He had a career-best 10 touchdowns with the Broncos in 2013.

Welker, who will turn 34 in May, had 49 receptions for 464 yards and two touchdowns last season.

—The Cincinnati Bengals re-signed linebacker Emmanuel Lamur to a one-year tender deal.

Lamur’s contract had expired on March 10, making him a restricted free agent. He will make $2.356 million under the terms of his one-year deal.

The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Lamur is a fourth-year NFL player in 2015. He played in 14 games last season, finishing third on the team in tackles with 90. He had two interceptions and led the front seven in passes defensed (seven). He also played in the wild-card playoff loss at Indianapolis.

—The Dallas Cowboys released defensive tackle Amobi Okoye.

Okoye spent the 2014 season on the Cowboys’ reserve list for non-football illness, recovering from a rare, potentially fatal autoimmune syndrome called anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.

In 2007, Okoye became the youngest player (19) ever drafted in the first round when the Houston Texans selected him with the 10th pick.

He lasted four seasons with Houston, recording 11 sacks and forcing two fumbles, and was with the Chicago Bears in 2011 and 2012, tallying five sacks.

In March 2013, he suffered a seizure after a workout. He was placed in a coma to stop the seizures and ended up with a 145-day memory gap. Once out of the coma, he had to re-learn how to speak and use his muscles.

The Cowboys signed him last August and he spent the season trying to regain his strength and stamina and recapture his football skills.

—The Green Bay Packers released offensive tackle Aaron Adams.

A second-year player out of Eastern Kentucky, Adams spent the 2014 season on injured reserve after suffering an injury during the preseason.

He spent the 2013 season on Green Bay’s practice squad after being released by the Cleveland Browns on Aug. 31, 2013.

—Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib and his brother are being investigated by police for an alleged aggravated assault after an incident Wednesday morning at a Dallas nightclub.

According to Dallas TV station WFAA, Talib and his brother were allegedly involved in an altercation while at Club Luxx and a gun was fired.

Talib and his brother were interviewed at the scene and allowed to leave, according to WFAA. The cars they were driving were towed.

Talib, who grew up in the Dallas area, signed a six-year, $57 million contract with the Broncos in 2014 and made the Pro Bowl last season.

—Cornerback P.J. Williams, a top draft prospect out of Florida State, has pleaded not guilty to driving under the influence, his attorney said Wednesday.

Williams, 21, was arrested Friday in Tallahassee, Fla. He was driving a rental car on a suspended license and was pulled over after making an illegal turn and crossing the center line several times, according to court records obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat.

Williams, who told police he was an FSU football player and “just wanted to go home,” was booked into Leon County Jail and released later on $500 bond.

Attorney Jonathan Simon told NFL.com on Wednesday, “There is a disputed version of events.”


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