The catch-no catch debate in the NFL has dragged on for 10 or 15 years.
Have we finally reached a point of clarity for all of us — but especially game officials — to truly know when a receiver has or has not made a reception? Dean Blandino, the NFL’s vice president of officiating, told Ross Tucker and Brad Hopkins on The Opening Drive Thursday the league is as close as it has been to achieving that elusive goal.
“The catch rule has been obviously a subject for debate and what we try to do is just make it clearer as to what the time element is,” Blandino said. “A catch is control, then two feet (down in bounds), then time. And we all tend to agree, for the most part, on control and two feet. But it’s that time element that becomes gray. Well, how long does the player have to have the ball after the second foot is down? So what we try to do in the (rule) book is put some language in, some things that are tangible that you can look at. So after the second foot is down, does the player tuck the ball away? Does he turn upfield? Does he have the ability to avoid contact, whether that’s using his off arm to attempt to stiff-arm a defender.
“So it’s some things that fans and coaches and players and, most importantly, officials can look at and use to make a decision that that receiver has now transitioned to a runner and now he has possession. So if the ball comes loose after that, it’s a fumble versus an incomplete pass. So, really, not a change to how the rule is being officiated, but it’s just trying to make it clearer, trying to give our officials and everybody else just some things that they can look for when we’re looking at these plays because these are plays that have been debated over the past couple of years. We’ve been talking about catch-no coach with the Competition Committee for 10-15 years.”
It has been a major topic of conversation at the NFL Officiating Academy, which runs through the weekend in Dallas. The academy serves as a training camp for officials, and is their second gathering of the year to help prepare for the season. The first one was in May, where officials were put through a battery of tests to assess their physical conditioning and also took written examinations. In Dallas, there is more classroom time to watch video and review rules changes, points of emphasis and mechanics.
“This isn’t an all-inclusive list,” Blandino said of what officials will look for regarding what is or isn’t a catch. “Let’s say a player controls the ball and he stumbles fort 10 yards and he doesn’t necessarily tuck the ball away. Well, I think at that point common sense would dictate that he had the ball long enough. But for the most part, most of the plays that we’ve looked at, these potentially bang-bang plays, either the player turned upfield and tucked the ball away and braced for contact, or he got hit prior to doing those things and the ball came out and was incomplete.
“We just try to give some examples. It’s not an all-inclusive list, but it is something that officials will be looking for, when it goes to replay, we’ll be looking for and things that everybody else can use to gauge what the decision is going to be.”
Vic Carucci is a frequent contributor to SiriusXM NFL Radio. Catch all of the biggest names in the game on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Channel 88.
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