NFL planning two huge changes to controversial catch rule


The controversial “survive the ground” catch rule could be a thing of the past if the NFL owners vote to approve the expected recommendations by the league’s competition committee.

The committee’s changes to the catch rule were expected to be finalized Tuesday, Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president of football operations, told The Washington Post.

Once the modifications are finalized by the committee, the owners will vote on them at next week’s owners meeting in Orlando, Florida.

Vincent told The Post that the big change relates to the “survive the ground” rule, which says the ball has to stay secured by the player when he hits the ground to be considered a catch.

The new rule, if approved, eliminates that provision. The receiver must only have control of the football, Vincent told The Post. Any slight movement of the ball in the receiver’s hands would not result in an incompletion.

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So that means the Jesse James play in the Steelers game against the Patriots last season would be a catch.

That means the Dez Bryant incompletion against the Packers in the 2014 playoffs would be a catch.

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The other part of that change relates to “slight movement of the ball” in the receiver’s hands.

We saw this in the Super Bowl with the touchdown catch by Philadelphia’s Corey Clement. The ball moved slightly in Clements’ hands at the end of the catch, and some thought the touchdown should have been overturned because it didn’t constitute possession under current NFL rules.

With the proposed rule changes, slight movements of the ball like this won’t result in an incomplete pass.

Of course, this is certain to open up a debate on what constitutes a “slight movement” of the ball.

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Vincent, however, claims it won’t, saying the NFL will go back to the old standard of only overturning calls when it’s a no-brainer.

“We worked backward,” Vincent told The Post. “We looked at plays and said: Do you want that to be a catch? And then we applied that to the rule.”

“Slight movement of the ball, it looks like we’ll reverse that. 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,” he added.

The official wording of the new rule with the changes has not been released yet.

Once the wording comes out, it could spark additional debate as people try to interpret it.

Given that Commissioner Roger Goodell has come out in support of fixing the league’s catch rule, it will be surprising if these changes aren’t approved.

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Dave is a lifelong sports fan who has been writing for The Wildcard since 2017. He has been a writer for more than 20 years for a variety of publications.
Dave has been writing about sports for The Wildcard since 2017. He's been a reporter and editor for over 20 years, covering everything from sports to financial news. In addition to writing for The Wildcard, Dave has covered mutual funds for Pensions and Investments, meetings and conventions, money market funds, personal finance, associations, and he currently covers financial regulations and the energy sector for Macallan Communications. He has won awards for both news and sports reporting.
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