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Annual NFL Catch Rule Review

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the NFL is updating the catch rule. Hell yes!

March 22, 2018 - 11:55 am
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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the NFL is updating the catch rule. Hell yes! There are a couple of traditions that I really, really love. The first weekend of the NCAA tournament, the Masters tournament, the first flowers of spring, and the NFL’s annual wrestle with determining what is and what isn’t a catch.

NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron announced that the Competition Committee will recommend new language for the catch rule next week at the Annual League Meeting and I, for one, cannot wait.

The new proposed rule for defining a catch is:

Control of the ball. Two feet down or another body part. A football move such as:

» A third step;

» Reaching/extending for the line-to-gain;

» Or the ability to perform such an act.

Hell yes – “a football move” is back and I couldn’t be happier. Actually, I could, if they would put in some other weird word salad like “survive the ground,” “complete the process of a catch,” and “clearly become a runner.”

And then we get to go back and review Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, and now Jesse James to determine if they would be catches. They weren’t catches at the time, but apparently they all would be catches now. And it’s awesome. All of it is awesome.

I love the fact that something wasn’t a catch in previous years is a catch now. That’s the best. That’s like changing the rules of baseball every year to determine what is and what isn’t a home run. Oh, that ball that went over the fence last year, yeah, that’s not a home run now. But the one that got to the warning track, that counts now.

But really, what I love the most about this is just how complicated can we make this rule? Because actually, a catch is pretty simple. Here’s my presentation to the Annual League Meeting: if a guy catches it, it’s a catch. And if he doesn’t catch it, it’s not a completion. End of discussion, let’s go hit the omelet station at the breakfast buffet.

But they start coming up with clauses, sub-clauses, amendments, and addendums, and it’s all fantastic. Just glorious. Because it just leaves everyone more confused than ever. The goal this year is to simplify the process and the definition, but I’m not totally sure that it does that. Because every time they change the rule, they’re confident that this is the time they get it right. And every year they’re wrong. It’s the best.

You know the rule is great when players, coaches, fans, and referees can’t tell you what a catch is. It’s really hard to confuse that many people and yet they do it every year. And I love it. Just inject that stuff straight into my veins.

The problem is: instant replay. Because when you slow it down to freeze-frames, you can pick up tiny details of the lace moving and it’ll drive you insane. So then you start to change the rule because of instant replay. You start pulling on the threads and suddenly you’re saying phrases like “football move” and “survive the ground” like anyone knows what that means.

Don’t ever change, Catch Rule. And when I say “don’t ever change,” what I really mean is keep changing and keep confusing everyone, because it’s impossible and beautiful. My solution if the player catches the ball, it’s a catch. But who the hell I am. I’ll do me, you do you and no one anywhere has any idea what’s a catch or not.

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