For professional football fans in America in recent years the NFL Catch Rule has become a source of … let’s just go with consternation.
Ever since Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson was involved in a play in the end zone of a game in 2010, a play where everyone on the planet NOT wearing an NFL officials jersey believes it was a catch, the league has been struggling to fully and easily define what is and is not a catch.
They tried to add more to it but all that did was further convolute the issue. So for the 2018 season the NFL Competition Committee has a new proposal. This one would drastically simplify the terminology in the rule by offering a re-worked set of criteria a player must satisfy.
The key is in this phrase:
“… performs and 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.”
Those words effectively eliminate and replace all that mumbo jumbo about “surviving the ground” or whatever it used to be. The proposal still needs to be voted on.
To fully understand what the new rule is … and just how crazy complicated the old one had become … here is the full proposal. Anything underlined would be added while anything struck through would we removed:
ARTICLE 3. COMPLETED OR INTERCEPTED PASS.
A player who makes a catch may advance the ball. 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;
maintains control of the ball 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. until he has the ball long enough to clearly become a runner.
A player has the ball long enough to become a runner when, after his second foot is on the ground, he is capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent, tucking the ball away, turning up field, or taking additional steps (see 3-2-7-Item 2).
If a player has control of the ball, a slight Movement of the ball does not automatically result in loss of control. will not be considered a loss of possession. He must lose control of the ball in order to rule that there has been a loss of possession. If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any part of his body to the ground, it is not a catch.
Note 2: 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.
Note 3: A receiver is considered a player in a defenseless posture (See Rule 12, Section 2, Article 7) throughout the entire process of the catch and until the player is capable of avoiding or warding off the impending contact of an opponent.
Item 1. Player Going to the Ground. A player is considered to be going to the ground if he does not remain upright long enough to demonstrate that he is clearly a runner. If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball until after his initial contact with the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.
Item 2. Sideline Catches. If a player goes to the ground out-of-bounds (with or without contact by an opponent) in the process of making a catch at the sideline, he must maintain complete and continuous control of the ball until after his initial contact with the ground, or the pass is incomplete.
Item 3. End Zone Catches. The requirements for a catch in the end zone are the same as the requirements for a catch in the field of play.
Note: In the field of play, if a catch of a forward pass has been completed, after which contact by a defender causes the ball to become loose before the runner is down by contact, it is a fumble, and the ball remains alive. In the end zone, the same action is a touchdown, since the receiver completed the catch beyond the goal line prior to the loss of possession, and the ball is dead when the catch is completed.
Item 4. Ball Touches Ground. If the ball touches the ground after the player secures control of it, it is a catch, provided that the player continues to maintain control.
Item 5. Simultaneous Catch. Note 4: If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players retain it, the ball belongs to the passers. It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control. If the ball is muffed after simultaneous touching by two such players, all the players of the passing team become eligible to catch the loose ball. Item 6. Carried Out of Bounds. Note 5: If a player, who is in possession of the ball, is held up and carried out of bounds by an opponent before both feet or any part of his body other than his hands touches the ground inbounds, it is a completed or intercepted pass. It is not necessary for the player to maintain control of the ball when he lands out of bounds.
Submitted by Competition Committee
Effect: Changes standard for a catch.
Reason: Simplification and clarification of the rule.