NFL officiating chief Carl Johnson will head back to the field next year as the league's first full-time game official.
Johnson will leave his head-referee job after the Super Bowl in February, according to league sources at the owners meetings in Dallas.
Johnson, who has been the league's vice president of officiating since 2010, was a line judge for nine seasons before heading into the NFL offices.
Under the collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Referees Association reached in September, the league is allowed to hire some officials on a full-time basis.
"Carl Johnson's experience on the field and in New York made him uniquely qualified to help implement the new program of a limited number of full-time game officials," NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson said Wednesday. "We are confident Carl will do an outstanding job."
The NFL immediately will launch its search for a successor, according to one Dallas source. Dean Blandino, the league's director of instant replay, is expected to be a leading candidate.
Johnson has worked eight postseason games, including the 2008 Super Bowl between the Giants and Patriots.
In his new role, in addition to being an on-field official, Johnson and other full-time officials will focus on training and development, scouting potential new officials, facilitating communication with game officials, and assisting the competition committee.
A search for the next head of the officiating department will begin in the near future, with Johnson participating in the transition to his replacement, the NFL said.
Information from ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter and The Associated Press was used in this report.