NFL Rule Book: A Lesson In Contradiction

Patrick TeskeContributor IISeptember 15, 2010

CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 12: Zack Bowman #35 and Danieal Manning #38 of the Chicago Bears break up a pass intended for Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions during the NFL season opening game at Soldier Field on September 12, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Lions 19-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Let me begin by admitting I am by no means an expert on the NFL rule book.  I honestly would not care to examine the minutia that is the NFL rule book.  But I will however, be willing to apply a little common sense approach in follow up to the controversial Calvin Johnson catch from this past Sunday's game between the Bears and the Lions.  

Yes, its a catch.  I have to believe my eyes when I see Calvin Johnson palming the football like its one of those mini footballs that were so popular when I was a kid.  

And yes, I've heard the language of the rule by now about 100 times and understand it was "applied correctly".  But that still does not make it right.  

To watch an extraordinary play be nullified essentially because the player was a little careless with the ball while getting up from the ground takes away from the spirit of football. How complicated does a catch have to be?  

Adding insult to injury, on the most common replay the official in the foreground raises his arms and signals touchdown as it unfolds in real time.  Aren't we always told the first instinct is usually the right one? 

Instead, this long winded explanation has to be offered as to why Calvin Johnson "drops the pass" by inexplicably using the football to push himself off the ground and has it squirt from his hand.

I do not understand why there isn't any room to simply apply a little common sense and trust that first official's interpretation of the play as it happened live right in front of him.  



Now lets consider some of the rules of the league and compare it to the situation.  

We all know the ground can't cause a fumble.  But it can cause an incomplete pass apparently.  That doesn't seem consistent.  More importantly, while rushing the football, as soon as any portion of the football, no matter how small, is deemed to have just even touched to very edge of the goal line, the play is over and it is a ruled a touchdown.

Unfortunately for wide receivers apparently none of these rules trump whats defined as the process of making a catch. Huh?  Even though Calvin Johnson caught the ball securely with two hands, and went on to land with his entire body in the end zone, including both knees touching the ground, while maintaining control of the football then in one hand, it was not a catch. 

Lets also consider that there are a couple other famous rules that even that average fan typically knows.  One knee equals two feet and two feet must be down for a catch.  Also, when your knee (or really any part of your body besides your hands) is down, you are ruled down by contact.   

They seem to be hoping to eliminate gray area which would be nearly impossible.  Those plays where guys get hit just as they land and lose the ball.  Fumble? Incomplete?  There are always going to be tough calls but then just simplify the rule and use common sense.  Ball secure and two feet down?  It's a catch.  Will there be questionable calls? Sure.  But don't penalize the calls that common sense tells us is a catch because you have to apply every letter of an over-complicated rule to every play.  

It's vexing to consider in some cases just barely touching the edge of the goal line means the play is dead.  While Calvin Johnson's play stays alive longer than Jason from the Friday the 13th movies. Worst of all, the over-complicated rule and the officials were a deciding factor on the outcome of an NFL game when they didn't really need to be.