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Rich McKay on the NFL's current catch rule: 'We needed to start over, re-write the rule'


(Photo by: Al Messerschmidt via AP)

ORLANDO – The infamous question, "What is a catch?" will finally have some clarity behind it after the NFL's league meetings conclude Wednesday.

The NFL's competition committee has spent the past three months reviewing and assessing how they can clear up the mixed interpretations and controversy that surrounds the standard of what is a catch in today's game. This is just one of 10 rule change proposals owners will vote on, but due to the increase in controversial calls over the past several of years in regard to what is ruled a catch and what is not, it's become one of the most talked about subjects of the NFL offseason.

After countless hours of film review and discussion, the committee found that replay was the biggest reason for the current confliction with this rule.

"What was happening was, on the field, the rule is pretty easy to officiate for officials," McKay said. "They know what they are looking for, they make their calls. But when you get to replay and all of the sudden you slow it down frame-by-frame you can see the ball move just a little bit. You can see so many different things that you can't see at full speed the rule got a little complicated."

In the committee's new proposal, the rule itself isn't changing per say, rather it's just being simplified.

"The rule just needed a re-write," McKay said. "We needed to start over, re-write the rule, simplify it, narrow the window of time that was for a catch."

The re-write didn't happen overnight for the competition committee. The group tasked in doing so is made up of eight members, including McKay, the Falcons' president and CEO as well as the chairman of the committee, Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy, owners John Mara (Giants), Stephen Jones (Cowboys), general managers John Elway (Denver Broncos) and Ozzie Newsome (Ravens) and head coaches Mike Tomlin (Steelers) and Sean Payton (Saints). All have met three times since January on this specific topic.

McKay said the committee watched 30 pass plays, a minimum of 15 times from start to finish in the process of re-writing this rule.

One clarification is that the ground will no longer be a factor in what constitutes a catch. The committee also narrowed the criteria of a catch down to the following:

"You have to catch it, which is control, two-feet or a body part down," McKay said. [And] the last part is, do something with the football – tuck it away, reach for the goal line, reach for a first down, take a third step – any of those are a football act and the catch is over at that point."

This doesn't mean replay is going away, though. Replay will still be used when needed, but with the criteria being simplified to what it is, expect a lot less calls to be overturned.

"The only ones you're going to see get reversed are the ones that are really obvious because you're taking away a lot of the subjective elements of replay," McKay said.

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