NFL Competition Committee Plans to Alter Catch-Rule Language, Replay Process

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistMarch 20, 2018

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James (81) catches a pass then twists to stretch the ball into the end zone for a touchdown against the New England Patriots with seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017. Upon video review, the touchdown call was reversed and the pass was ruled incomplete. The Patriots held on to win 27-24. (AP Photo/Don Wright)
Don Wright/Associated Press

NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent said Tuesday that the league is closing in on clarifying its controversial catch rule.

According to Mark Maske of the Washington Post, Vincent said the NFL plans to eliminate two factors that can cause incompletions. 

"Slight movement of the ball, it looks like we'll reverse that," he said. "Going to the ground, it looks like that's going to be eliminated. And we'll go back to the old replay standard of reverse the call on the field only when it's indisputable."

Vincent added that the competition committee is looking to finalize its proposal Tuesday before presenting it at next week's annual league meeting in Orlando, Florida.

Vincent explained the process of determining what should be ruled a catch: "We worked backward. We looked at plays and said: Do you want that to be a catch? And then we applied that to the rule."

He added that only indisputable video evidence will change the call on the field rather than the previous "clear and obvious" requirement.

NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron further described the process and showed a few plays from 2017 that prompted the league to look into the rule:

Vincent mentioned two infamous non-catches in recent years and said they would be catches under the new rule: "The Dez Bryant play, that'd be a catch. The Jesse James play, that'd be a catch."

Late in the Dallas Cowboys' NFC Divisional Round loss to the Green Bay Packers in January 2015, Bryant seemingly caught a pass that would have put Dallas in a goal-to-go situation.

Officials ruled it non-catch since the ball moved when he hit the ground. Dallas lost 26-21.

Last season, Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James appeared to catch the go-ahead touchdown on 1st-and-goal with 28 seconds remaining in a Week 15 game against the New England Patriots.

James reached the ball over the goal line, but it moved when it hit the ground, which caused the replay official to overturn it.

Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger then threw an interception two plays later, and the Pats won to essentially clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The James play caused fans to renew their demands for a more clearly defined catch rule, and it looks like they'll get that if the team owners approve the proposal. The annual meeting starts Sunday.       

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