Mike Pereira Says the NFL Has Changed the Catch Rule

By Jason Lisk
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Mike Pereira took to Twitter tonight, claiming to have talked Dean Blandino about changes to the catch rule in light of the Dez Bryant play.

Here’s a summary of what Pereira tweeted–well, a summary that cleans up typos and such and combines several tweets together for easier readability.

“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 the ball touching the ground,the pass is complete.”

I would have thought a change to this rule would have come out of the NFL meetings when they vote on changes, but maybe they just do it over drinks in July. Pereira also tweeted this, which might explain some of the typos.

But let’s assume that this is really the new language for a catch as it applies to the “Going to the Ground” rule.

Here is the old portion of the rulebook about “Going to the Ground.”

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 throughout the process of contacting 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.

broke that down last year talking about my issues with the rule as applied to Dez Bryant, and noted that there are additional notes that come into play. But since we don’t know how those are in play here until seeing an official full rule, let’s talk about what is different between the two.

The first sentence is added and new (“remain upright long enough …”). That may be a replacement of the “act common to the game” provision though we don’t know yet.  The other change is going from “maintain control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground” to “maintain control of the ball until after his initial contact with the ground.”

Will this actually solve the confusion? I highly doubt it, but it may provide a different result in a few cases, depending on the interpretation. We should be relieved of people talking about the process of the catch. “After his initial contact” is still going to lead to plenty of debate. Is that initial contact with any body part that would otherwise establish a receiver as down? Like an elbow, knee, butt? Or does sticking a hand out to break a fall and controlling it in the other hand suffice?

We’ll await more clarity, but for now I’ll say this. Under this rule, Calvin Johnson’s catch should have been ruled a touchdown, since he didn’t lose it until after he was already rolling over to get up. I would interpret that as after his initial contact with the ground.












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