The NFL is redefining "What is a catch?"

By Chris Chavez
March 20, 2018

The NFL’s competition committee has recommended changing the language of the league’s catch rule in an effort to avoid future controversial calls. 

The proposal seeks to define a catch as:

1. Control of the ball.

2. Two feet down or another body part.

3. A football move such as: 

• A third step;

• Reaching/extending for the line-to-gain

• Or the ability to perform such an act.

The recommendation, revealed Wednesday by NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron, will be voted on by owners next week, perhaps as early as Tuesday.

The new rule will get rid of provisions pertaining to the slight movement of the football once it hits the receiver's hands and the going-to-the-ground requirement.

"Slight movement of the ball, it looks like we’ll reverse that," NFL vice president of football operations Troy Vincent told The Washington Post. "Going to the ground, it looks like that’s going to be eliminated. And we’ll go back to the old replay standard of reverse the call on the field only when it’s indisputable.”

Under the new rule will mean that once the receiver has control of the football, any slight movement in the receiver's hands viewed during a replay review would not be an incompletion. If the receiver is in the process of going to the ground, they will have to maintain control of the football while on the turf for the catch to be ruled as complete.

So how about the Dez Bryant catch? In a 2014 divisional playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, Bryant appeared to have caught a pass on fourth down that would have put the Cowboys at the one-yard line. The Packers challenged the completion and the referee overturned the call. Green Bay won the game 26–21. Under the new rule, Vincent says that the Dez Bryant play would have been ruled a catch.

One of the more recent controversies involved Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Jesse James, who appeared to make a catch to give Pittsburgh a go-ahead touchdown against the New England Patriots with 28 seconds left in regulation during Week 15. The referees ruled it a touchdown before overturning it upon replay review. Vincent said that the Jesse James play would have been a catch.

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