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Sunday, August 5, 2012
HOF Game: Replacement officials debut

By Mike Sando

CANTON, Ohio -- The Hanover Township website representing Bartlett, Ill., describes highway commissioner Craig Ochoa as, among other things, "a 26-year veteran professional football and basketball referee working mostly in the Big 10 Football Conference and the Arena League."

This normally wouldn't interest visitors to the NFC West blog, and it still might not, but with the NFL's regular officials battling the league for a new contract, Ochoa will head up a replacement crew in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game between the Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints.

The crew also features umpire Tim Morris, head linesman Kevin Akin, line judge Esteban Garza, field judge Rusty Spindel, side judge Dwayne Strozier and back judge Mark Wetzel.

NFL athletes play much faster than those at the college level. Adjusting to that speed can be a challenge. The field here at Fawcette Stadium could present some challenges, too. It has six sets of hash marks and a giant Hall of Fame commemorative logo painted between the 40-yard lines, extending to the outside hashes.

A few players from each team are warming up. I haven't seen the game officials yet.