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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)


It's a good thing the NFL's competition committee - hunkered down in Palm Beach, Fla., before heading to next week's league meeting in Orlando - doesn't have to come up with an unofficial name for a catch rule that's again under review.

Call it the Dez Bryant Rule? The Jesse James Rule? The Megatron Factor? The Bert Emanuel Principle?

There has been so much confusion over the years for what constitutes a legitimate catch in the NFL that a cleaner, simpler rule could ignite its own debate amid the numerous controversies.

So how about just calling it the "Common Sense Rule."

"When all the stakeholders are saying the same thing - it's too confusing - we have to bring clarity and simplify," Troy Vincent, the league's executive vice president of football operations, told USA TODAY.

"Ultimately, what does the game want? Those magical moments and catches. They live with people forever."

The would-be catches live on, too - in infamy.

Ask a die-hard Cowboys fan if Bryant caught the ball as he lunged for the goal line at Lambeau Field in the divisional round of the playoffs three years ago, the game hanging in the balance. By NFL law, the play was ruled incomplete. It sure looked like a catch.

In Pittsburgh, they felt robbed when the namesake of the notorious outlaw had a go-ahead touchdown grab with 28 seconds left against the Patriots last December nullified because, well, James "did not survive the ground." Whatever. That, too, looked like a monster catch.

But don't blame the officials. In the aforementioned cases, as well as so many others, the rulings (supported by replay reviews) were correctly called on the field in accordance with what was written in the rule book at the time.

Yet the rule is too confusing and often too silly - and way too embarrassing for a league that is challenged to raise the bar (other issues included) on the credibility meter. That's why owners will vote on a revised catch rule designed to appease the stakeholders Vincent mentions - fans, players, coaches, officials, broadcasters, replay supervisors and your cousin Ida Lynn, too.

The competition committee, which previously met this year in New York and Indianapolis and is in the final stage of tightening up the language for the rule proposal, will undoubtedly push to eliminate the "survive the ground" standard. And here's a vote to allow some slack for slight movement of the ball.

During the scouting combine, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome (a longtime competition committee member, not to mention a Hall of Fame tight end) said the true measure of the updated language will hinge on whether it can consistently pass muster - like always, on the spot - with game officials, replay officials and fans.

"It's a lot tougher to do than it is to say," Newsome said of writing the rule.

Think of this as the guiding principle: You know a catch when you see it. Never mind that the ball rotated as the player twisted and fell to the ground. Forget that the receiver touched two feet in the end zone, then left the ball on the turf (hello, Calvin Johnson) as he began celebrating. With so many conditions attached to what constitutes a catch, common sense has been buried in the process, unable to survive the groundswell of some unnecessary input over the years.

Add high-definition TV to the mix, and we've discovered that even the most secured footballs have more movement than we ever imagined.

"Less is better," Vincent said, envisioning the new language. "And it's clear."

It was a little more than two years ago when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell assembled a blue-ribbon panel of experts - including current and former players, coaches and front office types. It was a noble effort to bring some clarity to the catch and maybe fuel a better rule. The so-called "catch committee" spent hours studying video and brainstorming. After several weeks, they concluded that nothing needed to be done.


That was not the answer the NFL needed - or wanted.

So this time around different voices were heard, including those of Giants star Odell Beckham Jr., Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow, 49ers legend Dwight Clark and former Giants wideout Amani Toomer.

"What changed? We asked a different question," Vincent said when comparing the "catch committee" to the new advisers.

"The question was: 'Do you want that to be a catch.' Before, it was: 'Based on the rule, is that officiated correctly?' "

A clarified version will require 24 affirmative votes from the owners. But like last year's philosophical shift to allow TD celebrations - they sparked creativity from players that we never knew existed - a revised catch rule looms to be a big winner.

As Vincent put it, "When you listen, you learn, and you adjust."

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March 21, 2018


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