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ORLANDO, Fla. — These annual NFL owners meetings might be hijacked by the national anthem debate. I mean, the Jets’ let-’em-protest president Christopher Johnson versus the stand-at-attention-or-else Bob McNair of the Texans would be great political theater on, say, Jake Tapper’s CNN show. Or that could flame out by midday today. Then what?

My money’s on the definition of a football move.

On Sunday afternoon, inside a ballroom at the Ritz Carlton, the NFL’s eight-man Competition Committee milled about after briefing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on the rules proposal that the league hopes will clear up once and for all what a catch is. (I’m not optimistic it will.) In the front of the room, prepping the plays he wanted to show me that were at the crux of the proposed new rule, NFL vice president of officiating Al Riveron riffed on the rewrite of the complex rule.

“The Competition Committee rewrote the catch rule, basically, over the last two months,” Riveron said, with the infamous Dez Bryant play paused on the screen at the front of the room. “Totally. And it’s broken down in three basic things: control, two feet down or a body part down, and a football move. We took away the element of going to the ground. Once they fulfill these three steps, it’s over.”

Riveron ran the Dez tape. The play, Bryant’s controversial non-catch in the 2014 NFC divisional playoff game against Green Bay, is three years and two months old. In the eyes of the Competition Committee, it’s the Zapruder film.

“One of the examples we use as a football move is a third step,” Riveron said. “So watch Dez.”

Bryant catches the ball at the Packers’ 5-yard line, high above Sam Shields. “Control,” Riveron said.

Bryant left foot down at the 5. “One,” Riveron said.

Bryant right foot down at the 4. “Two,” Riveron said.

Bryant left foot down, with a chunk of sod flying up, at the two-and-a-half-yard line. “Three,” he said. “We have a catch. Contact with the defensive player [Shields]. Down by contact. Play over. Process over. Catch. Doesn’t matter that the ball’s jarred loose.”

That would have reversed 2014 history. This next play is more recent.

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“Now Jesse James,” Riveron said.

December 2017: New England, 10-3, at Pittsburgh, 11-2. Home field in the AFC playoff in the balance. Almost certainly it’s Pittsburgh’s with a win. Pats up 27-24, 30 seconds left. Ben Roethlisberger throws to tight end James near the goal line.

The video starts. James catch just outside the 1-yard line. “Control,” Riveron said.

Left knee on the ground, two feet from the goal line. “A knee equals two feet,” Riveron said.

Football move—James reaches across the goal line and breaks the plane … and the ball moves perceptibly as both hands and arms hit the ground beyond the goal line. “Now he reaches,” Riveron said. “Football move. It’s over. Catch. Touchdown. He made the football move. He broke the plane of the goal line. Play over.”

“One question,” I said. “Can you define ‘football move?’”

“We’ve got this in our proposal,” Riveron said. “Player reaching out with possession. Player pulling the ball back. Player making a third step. Player protecting himself. Those qualify for a football move.”

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The Riveron point, backed by the Competition Committee, is pretty clear. The simplicity of it—the three elements of control, two feet down and football move—sounds simple. But as we’ve learned, with the betterment of replay technology, the increasing number of HD cameras at every NFL game, and the ability of TV crews to have far better views of tight plays, simple plays are not simple anymore. Look at the replays the NFL overturned in 2017—such as the overwrought, overcorrected Kelvin Benjamin touchdown for Buffalo in New England that should not have been negated but was—and you realize so much of this is subject to human control too. I expect a few things if, as expected, the new rules pass this week when a three-quarters vote of the 32 teams comes up.

• I expect Riveron to be less of a micromanager as the replay supervisor in 2018. There is no question that the Competition Committee and the league office thinks the standard of indisputable visual evidence must be reinstated after a 2017 season when it was fungible.

• I expect this rule to pass, because there is little organized opposition. I couldn’t find league or team people ready to fight it before the vote this week. That’s because it’s better than the rule that includes the point that a receiver must keep possession when he goes to the ground. “The problem with that,” said Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay, “is that if the players takes three steps and then goes to the ground, it could be a number of yards after he’s caught the ball.” In Bryant’s case, for instance, it was four yards between the time he took possession and the time the ball was jarred loose by contact with the ground.

• Three weeks ago today, I quoted a person close to the Competition Committee in this column, regarding the what-is-a-catch conundrum: “Going to the ground is going away,” my source said. And immediately I heard from several people in the league wondering if the league was simply exchanging one problem for other ones. Dean Blandino, the predecessor to Riveron, told me the Competition Committee is getting what it wanted with this new rule. “The Competition Committee wanted those plays, the Dez play and the Jesse James play, to be catches, and basically figured out, How do we do that? They figured it out. But now the issue is going to be, ‘Did they perform a football act, an act that is common to the game?’ That is going to be subjective.”

My feeling is, this rule is better than the one it’s replacing, but it is not a cure-all. If anything, I think Riveron is going to have more reviews in 2018 than last year.

“We just have to be mindful that this is not going to solve everything,” Blandino said.

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I wish as a football-crazy people we could realize that. There are so many analysts, fans, players and coaches who express incredulity when a call on the field is upheld or overturned. Nothing is perfect, and no system in a bang-bang sporting play is perfect. I had to watch the Bryant replay more than 10 times to see all the intricacies. Imagine doing that on the field, in real time. It’s hard. Football can’t be perfectly officiated. We shouldn’t think this system will fix all wrongs, because all wrongs in such a fast game cannot be fixed.

On the Anthem

It was fated to come to this. Patience in the NFL is wearing thin for protests during the anthem—actually, they are protests of the American condition, not protests of the American flag—and as owners gathered here on Sunday afternoon, the six-month-old protests about players’ activities during the anthem flared.

“Our playing fields are not the place for political statements,” said Texans owner Bob McNair. “There are fans that are upset about it. Fans are our customers. You can replace the owners and the league would survive. You can replace the players, although the game won't be good. You can't replace the fans. If you don't have the fans, you're dead.”

Said the owner representative of the Jets, Christopher Johnson: “I just think that trying to forcibly get the players to shut up is a fantastically bad idea.”

Look for the league to take this up at its May meetings. Commissioner Roger Goodell has been trying to straddle a fine line of allowing players to exercise their free will, while also not inflaming the situation with advertisers and fans who think the demonstrations during the anthem are unpatriotic. I don't see a way that this won’t end ugly.

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On Wayne Huizenga

The former Dolphins, Marlins and Panthers owner, known in the wider world for starting three Fortune 500 companies (Waste Management​, Blockbuster and AutoNation), was the greatest owner in the history of south Florida sports in his spare time. He died Thursday at 80. What I’ll always remember about Huizenga: Late in his second year coaching the Dolphins in 2006, Nick Saban was the subject of well-founded rumors that he would leave to coach Alabama. Saban denied it several times, once to me vehemently, but it was clear he was unhappy in the job. Saban went to Huizenga and told him he preferred college football. Now, understand that Huizenga made a huge commitment to Saban in 2005: five years and $22.5 million, mountainous money at the time. And Saban wasn’t really paying off; he and the Miami doctors allowed Drew Brees to get away in free agency in 2006 because of Brees’s surgically repaired right shoulder, the Dolphins didn’t have a long-term quarterback, and Saban was just 15-17 in his first two years.