NFL Competition Committee Announces Recommendations to Simplify Catch Rule

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 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

The NFL Competition Committee attempted to simplify the rules for making a catch by recommending a three-step process for a player to register an official reception.

Al Riveron, the NFL's senior vice president of officiating, shared the recommendations:

The New York Times' Benjamin Hoffman noted the changes will need to be approved at the NFL's annual owners meeting before they're implemented.

The new catch rules would eliminate what has become the most troublesome aspect of the current standards. To complete a catch, a player must have possession with both feet inbounds and also have the ball "long enough to clearly become a runner."

The language about a receiver becoming a runner came to the fore in the Pittsburgh Steelers' Week 15 defeat to the New England Patriots.

Tight end Jesse James appeared to score what was a go-ahead touchdown with 28 seconds left in the fourth quarter. However, referees overturned the decision after determining James momentarily lost control of the ball when he went to the ground.

Riveron explained the ruling in a video from NFL Football Operations last December:

NBCSN's Ross Tucker and NFL Network's Mike Garafolo wondered whether the somewhat vague wording in the last part of the recommended rule changes will solve the current problems:

At the very least, the recommendations represent some progress to clarify the standards for what is and isn't a catch, but Tucker and Garafolo highlighted how there's still a lot of room for referees to make their own interpretations.

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