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Grey In Black And White


Over the course of the NFL offseason - if there really is such a thing - players find all kinds of ways to stay busy.

Most guys spend a lot of time with their families, catching up with some of the precious people in their lives they don't get to see too much of during the rigors of the long and hard football season. Some players travel the world, taking advantage of the lifestyle their athletic talent has provided them.

Others put to use some of their free time by working to set themselves up for the days when their playing careers are over. Some of these take classes to help them with their futures in the business world.

Another option that the NFL Players Association provides for its members is a variety of internships. Packers offensive lineman Grey Ruegamer chose to spend some of his offseason participating in one of the more unusual internships available, one that kept him on the football field.

Ruegamer, along with four other NFL players - Rodney Harrison of the New England Patriots, Raylee Johnson of the Denver Broncos, Fred McCrary of the Atlanta Falcons, and Shelton Quarles of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers - participated as an intern official last month during the NFL Europe training camp in Tampa.

Ruegamer said he's not sure if officiating is something he's looking to get into after his career is over or not, but he's sure the things he learned from the "zebras" will help him as a player.

"It was an opportunity provided by the league and I thought it would really help me understand the game a little bit better, to see what the referees are looking at," said the lineman. "That's a side of football that I've always (complained) about, so I figured I'd go to the other side and see what it is that they actually do."

Ruegamer, who started 11 games at center after Mike Flanagan went down with a knee injury in 2004 and is expected to compete for one of the guard positions in the upcoming season, and his fellow intern officials learned some of the tricks of the trade before hitting the field in Florida.

"They kind of gave us an overview of what they do and what their responsibilities are," said the six-year veteran. "We went through the positions on the field and what they look at and what they're responsible for during every play. The taught us some techniques about what each of them does.

"It was really informative. I learned a lot just by hearing them talk, and then we got to go out on the field with the NFL Europe players and have everybody running around so you could get a feel for it."

NFL officiating crews are made up of six flag-wielders - referee, umpire, head linesman, side judge, field judge, and back judge. Ruegamer chose to work at the positions that most frequently are the ones calling penalties on offensive linemen.

"I mostly worked at umpire and then I went to one of the side judge spots to see it from that vantage point to get a different feel. I wanted to see what I could get away with, see if I could cheat a little bit and help myself out," he joked.

Overall, Ruegamer said that he found the experience educational and he thinks he'll be a better player because of it.

"I was curious to see what the refs look at and it was very informative," he said. "Seeing it from the other side of the ball was a little different, but it was cool. I had a lot of fun.

"It definitely gives you more information to work with. Getting to know the different umpires around the league, you know what you can get away with with some guys and what you can't with others. Hopefully if you keep your hands tight and give a little pull here or there and he doesn't see it, that's good - it's good for me anyway."

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