Carl Johnson will make history on March 1 when he becomes the NFL's first full-time official. And while that part of it is nice, Johnson's motivation for moving back to the football field from his role as NFL vice president of officiating was more personal than professional.
"Mainly, it was the opportunity to get back to Louisiana and be with my wife and son," Johnson said Friday morning. "I'm in New York, and my son's back there, my wife's there.
"I love working for the NFL, it's a great job, and I wanted to have a job with the league and remain full time. I didn't want it to be just the fall. I wanted it to be all the time. I love football, and when we had the full-time position available like this, it certainly looked like a good job to me."
The NFL's goal is to have one full-time official for each position -- referee, umpire, head linesman, line judge, field judge, side judge and back judge -- in place in time for the 2013 season. So this is just the first of those hires.
Johnson says those jobs won't vary from those of normal officials until the offseason.
"During the season, it won't be different," he said. "I'll be on the field over the course of the whole season. But in the offseason, officials have a 'dark period' after the Super Bowl that goes through May 15 -- They can't do any work, according to the CBA. As a full-time official, I won't stop working after the Super Bowl. I'll be at the combine, competition and rules committee meetings, maybe some OTAs. It'll be anything the league office may need me to assist with, including scouting and training potential officials."
Johnson and the other full-time officials' main role in committee meetings will be to provide perspective for the league on the mechanics from an on-the-field perspective, explaining the nuances inside the game and unintended results that changes might or might not incur, and also realistically what an official can and can't see.
Johnson will serve in his current role through the end of the season before returning home full time to his wife, Cynthia, and his 17-year-old son, Carl Jr. Interestingly enough, as Carl Sr. mentions that player safety remains a priority for him and the league, he adds that his wife wouldn't allow his son to play ball in his high school. He's a senior this year.
And though Johnson is excited to get home, he admits there are things he'll miss about his old role.
"I'm going to miss that team -- it's one heck of a team we have in New York," Johnson said. "The football operations group, Ray Anderson's group, that's a strong group, and I'll miss engaging with them every day, and I told them that after the Super Bowl, I certainly want to stay involved. But I'll miss the everyday interaction."