A week ago, the NFL officially updated the catch rule. While the league didn't necessarily change the rule, it provided additional language to help clarify when in fact a receiver becomes a runner.
Via the rulebook for the 2016 season:
A player has the ball long enough to become a runner when, after his second foot is on the ground, he is capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent, tucking the ball away, turning up field, or taking additional steps.
Even after the change, confusion remained. While the rule got more specific, it didn't get any easier for the officials, who will be tasked with deciding within a split second if a receiver fits within the criteria listed above.
On Thursday, NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino provided an explanation for the updated language. In actuality, he might've made it more confusing.
Though the rulebook attempts to lay out what is and isn't a catch with that paragraph above, Blandino told SiriusXM NFL Radio's Ross Tucker and Brad Hopkins that it isn't an "all-inclusive list."
"This isn't an all-inclusive list," Blandino said. "Let's say a player controls the ball and he stumbles for 10 yards and he doesn't necessarily tuck the ball away. Well, I think at that point common sense would dictate that he had the ball long enough. But for the most part, most of the plays that we've looked at, these potentially bang-bang plays, either the player turned upfield and tucked the ball away and braced for contact, or he got hit prior to doing those things and the ball came out and was incomplete.
"We just try to give some examples. It's not an all-inclusive list, but it is something that officials will be looking for, when it goes to replay, we'll be looking for and things that everybody else can use to gauge what the decision is going to be."
In other words, common sense can sometimes override the rulebook. I don't foresee that being an issue at any point this season (note the sarcasm).
There appears to be no end in sight to the confusion. Because as long as the NFL sticks with the current catch rule -- "two feet, then time," as Blandino put it -- there's never going to be a way to adequately define and consistently enforce the "time" requirement, especially if the common sense of an individual official is allowed to overrule what the actual rulebook says.
At that point, it becomes an entirely subjective call, something the NFL should avoid. After all, we all seem to have differing opinions of what a catch is and isn't.
Blandino maintained that the NFL tried to make the rule "clearer" with the updated language, but also admitted to something we've all known since that infamous Dez Bryant non-catch: The time aspect is super "gray."
"The catch rule has been obviously a subject for debate and what we try to do is just make it clearer as to what the time element is," Blandino said. "A catch is control, then two feet (down in bounds), then time. And we all tend to agree, for the most part, on control and two feet.
"But it's that time element that becomes gray. Well, how long does the player have to have the ball after the second foot is down? So what we try to do in the (rule) book is put some language in, some things that are tangible that you can look at. So after the second foot is down, does the player tuck the ball away? Does he turn upfield? Does he have the ability to avoid contact, whether that's using his off arm to attempt to stiff-arm a defender?
"So it's some things that fans and coaches and players and, most importantly, officials can look at and use to make a decision that that receiver has now transitioned to a runner and now he has possession. So if the ball comes loose after that, it's a fumble versus an incomplete pass.
"So, really, not a change to how the rule is being officiated, but it's just trying to make it clearer, trying to give our officials and everybody else just some things that they can look for when we're looking at these plays because these are plays that have been debated over the past couple of years. We've been talking about catch-no catch with the Competition Committee for 10-15 years."
Ten to 15 years later, the rule still isn't much clearer.