The Infamous Catch Rule
The NFL was founded in 1920. It has played a lot of football games over the ensuing years.
It has an all-time leader in pass receptions and in pass receiving yards (Jerry Rice, on both counts).
And on Tuesday, at its annual meeting, the NFL defined exactly what a catch is.
For the last few years, arguments raged and replay challenge flags were thrown as a player caught pass, took a step and then lost the ball, either from contact with a defender or the ground. “Catch/no catch” became the catchwords and the definition of a catch grew ever more tortured.
Did the player make a football move? Did he take enough steps? Did he do the hokey-pokey and turn himself around (because that’s what it’s all about)?
Now the NFL will eliminate the requirement of maintaining control of the ball through the process of going to the ground. Instead, a catch is defined by three attributes: The receiver must control the ball, establish himself in bounds and perform the proverbial football, whether it is diving with the ball or taking a third step.
This means, of course, that controversial non-catches of recent years (Calvin Johnson, Dez Bryant, Jesse James) would have been game-changing receptions. It also raises more hair-splitting questions about that football move and the act of going to the ground. These plays happen fast and even with replay it is not always easy to tell whether a player taking a step also bobbled the ball before hitting the ground, and if the ground helped him maintain possession.
Watching football on TV as a kid, your friendly neighborhood blog often had to fiddle with the antenna if he wanted good reception. And somehow, 108 years after it was born, the NFL is still having receptions problems as well.
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