NFL NEWS

NFL to decide: A catch or not a catch

The Sports Xchange

March 25, 2018 at 12:10 pm.

Dec 17, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA;  Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James (81) fails to hold the ball as he falls across the goal line against New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty (32) and strong safety Duron Harmon (30) during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The play was ruled an incomplete pass. The Patriots won 27-24. Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 17, 2017; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James (81) fails to hold the ball as he falls across the goal line against New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty (32) and strong safety Duron Harmon (30) during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The play was ruled an incomplete pass. The Patriots won 27-24. Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?

OK, so NFL rules aren’t quite the same as Hamlet’s soliloquy, but for several seasons, the conundrum of a catch or not a catch has arguably been the most frustrating on-field controversy that has gripped the league on a weekly basis.

Now, as the annual league meeting begins in Orlando, the competition committee hopes to end the “sea of troubles” that has engulfed the narrative.

Following hours of meetings and discussion, the committee believes they have a solution. Committee chair Rich McKay, president and CEO of the Atlanta Falcons, describes the rewritten rule as a “simple, three-step process” where in most instances going to the ground has been eliminated and where there can still be movement of the ball in the process of the catch.

The rule now says, “A forward pass is complete (by the offense) or intercepted (by the defense) in the field of play, at the sideline, or in the end zone if a player, who is inbounds: (a) secures control of the ball in his hands or arms, prior to the ball touching the ground and (b) touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands and (c) after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled performs any act common to the game (e.g., tuck the ball away, extend it towards or over the goal line or the line to gain, take an additional step, turn upfield, or avoid or ward off an opponent), or he maintains control of the ball long enough to do so.”

Most important, movement of the ball does not automatically result in loss of control.

What remains important for the catch is that there is an “act common to the game” as described above because the rule further states, “If a player, who satisfied (a) and (b), but has not satisfied (c), contacts the ground and loses control of the ball, it is an incomplete pass if the ball hits the ground before he regains control, or if he regains control out of bounds.”

One concern or “unintended consequence” would be that more fumbles might be the result. However, McKay said the committee reviewed numerous catches and “didn’t find many” fumbles. “There will be some,” he said, “but we don’t think there will be too many.”

The rule change must be approved by a three-quarters majority at the meeting. Had this rule been in effect, controversial “non-catches” by Pittsburgh tight end Jesse James last season and Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant in the 2014 playoffs would have been catches.

The league will also consider a change in defensive pass interference (DPI), a proposal made by the Jets that does not have the support of the competition committee.

That would make most DPI penalties 15 yards instead of spot fouls. The latter would only occur in the event of an “intentional and egregious foul.”

While it has been said a change has “momentum” there is also the concern that there is too much judgment in what constitutes “intentional and egregious.” Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice-president of football operations and former cornerback, noted, “The professional defensive backs were too skilled, too smart and could play the play so they could be strategic about it. You don’t want the defensive back being able to strategically grab a guy.”

McKay said last season there was only one DPI of 50 yards or more, three of 45 yards or more and seven of 40 yards or more in a league where there were more than 17,000 passes.

One significant resolution proposed would allow a new head coach to sign a contract and have it announced even if his present team is still involved in the playoffs. Previously, an assistant coach could reach agreement on a contract but couldn’t sign it.

That blew up in the face of the Indianapolis Colts last month when Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels agreed to become the Colts’ head coach only to back out shortly after the Super Bowl.

It was publicly known, even though it couldn’t be officially announced, that McDaniels had accepted the job as did Patriots then-defensive coordinator Matt Patricia with the Detroit Lions. The same was true of Kyle Shanahan, who officially left the Falcons for the 49ers after Super Bowl LI, and Dan Quinn, who went from Seattle to Atlanta after Super Bowl XLIX.

McKay said, “Every year it’s become harder as the media pays more focus to those coaches and who may be going where. For too many years we’ve tried to hold that line on you can’t sign a contract but you can have an understanding. We just felt like we need to get over that hurdle and say you can sign a contract. It doesn’t mean you can work, but you can sign the contract.”

Following is a summary of proposed changes of 10 rules, 12 bylaws and five resolutions:

2018 Playing Rules Proposals
1. By Competition Committee: Makes permanent the playing rule that changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line.
2. By Competition Committee: Changes standard for a catch.
3. By Competition Committee: Makes the penalties for Illegal Batting and Kicking the same.
4. By Los Angeles Chargers: Amends Rule 15, Section 2, Article 5 to add fouls for roughing the passer and fouls against players in a defenseless posture as reviewable plays in the instant replay system.
5. By Washington: Amends Rule 15, Section 2, Article 5 to add review of personal fouls as reviewable plays in the instant replay system.
6. By New York Jets: Amends Rule 8, Section 5, Articles 1-4 to change the enforcement for defensive pass interference.
7 By Competition Committee: Authorizes the designated member of the Officiating department to instruct on-field game officials to disqualify a player for a flagrant non-football act when a foul for that act is called on the field.
8. By Competition Committee: Conforms the amount of time in which a team must challenge a play if there is a television commercial break following the play in question.
9. By Competition Committee: Eliminates the requirement that a team who scores a winning touchdown at the end of regulation of a game to kick the extra point or go for two-point conversion.
10. By Competition Committee: If there is a turnover, a team may win an overtime game, even though it scores on its second possession.

2018 Bylaw Proposals
1. By Competition Committee: Makes permanent the liberalization of rules for timing, testing, and administering physical examinations to draft-eligible players at a club’s facility.
2. By Buffalo: For one year only, amends Article XVII, Section 17.4 to liberalize the rule for reacquisition of a player assigned via waivers.
3. By Buffalo: For one year only, amends Article XVII, Section 17.6 to liberalize the procedures for players placed on Reserve/Retired.
4. By Denver: Amends Article XVII, Section 17.16 to permit clubs to trade players from Reserve/Injured.
5. By Miami: Amends Article XVII, Section 17.1 to remove the requirement that a non-vested player be placed on waivers to be removed from the 90-player roster prior to the roster reduction to 53 players.
6. By Minnesota: Amends Article XVIII, Section 18.1 to replace the 10-day postseason claiming period with a 24-hour period.
7. By San Francisco, Arizona, and Los Angeles Chargers: Reduces the competitive equity that exists between teams who have morning body clock start times on long road trips.
8. By Competition Committee: Permits coaches to review video displayed on League-issued tablets on the sidelines and in the coaches’ booth.
9. By Competition Committee: A player who is designated for return is eligible to be activated after eight games, not eight weeks.
10. By Competition Committee: Lengthens the period to execute an Injury Settlement from five business days to seven business days.
11. By Competition Committee: Changes the deadline to reinstate players from certain Reserve List categories.
12. By Competition Committee: Updates Reserve/Military List procedures to reflect the current League calendar.

2018 Resolution Proposals
G-1. By Washington: Allows opposing teams to receive the League’s postgame responses to any officiating inquiries submitted by either team.
G-2. By San Francisco: Requires all NFL stadiums by 2021 to have three separate and permanent locker rooms to be exclusively designated for female football staff on game days as follows: game officials, home club staff members, and visiting club staff members.
G-4. By Competition Committee: Permits a club to negotiate and sign a head coach candidate during the postseason prior to the conclusion of the employer club’s season.
G-5. By Competition Committee: For one year only, permits an interested club to contact a Vested Veteran before clubs have been notified of the player’s termination via the Player Personnel Notice if (i) the players is not subject to the Waivers System and, (ii)
the employer club has publicly announced the player’s release.

 

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