NFL updates the catch rule and still manages to create more confusion
The league has changed wording to describe when a receiver becomes a runner, but that raises other questions
The NFL updated the catch rule for the upcoming season. Don't worry, it's just as confusing as the last one.
To be more clear, the NFL only updated the language of the catch rule. The league didn't actually change the rule itself, even though seemingly everyone throughout the league wanted changes after a season marred with inconsistent rulings.
Here's the rule for the 2016 season,with the bolded parts marking the language changes:
ARTICLE 3. COMPLETED OR INTERCEPTED PASS. A player who makes a catch may advance the ball. A forward pass is complete (by the offense) or intercepted (by the defense) if a player, who is inbounds:
(a) secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground; and
(b) touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands; and
(c) maintains control of the ball after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, until he has the ball long enough to clearly become a runner. 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 (see 3-2-7-Item 2).
Note: If a player has control of the ball, a slight movement of the ball will not be considered a loss of possession. He must lose control of the ball in order to rule that there has been a loss of possession.
If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any part of his body to the ground, it is not a catch.
So basically, the NFL tried its darnedest to clarify when a receiver became a runner. And that makes sense, given it's that specific aspect that no one -- even NFL receivers -- seems to understand.
But as pretty much the entire Twitterverse immediately pointed out, the NFL appeared to be saying that toe-tap catches on the sideline or in the back of the end zone won't actually be catches, because receivers won't have time to establish themselves as runners by being "capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent, tucking the ball away, turning up field, or taking additional steps" before falling out of bounds.
The only explanation is that "tucking the ball away" and "taking additional steps" can occur out of bounds. Because otherwise, we're looking at a rulebook that says plays like this are incomplete:
And let's remember that officials will be tasked with determining when a receiver becomes a runner in a matter of split seconds. The rule might've gotten more specific, but it didn't get any simpler. Considering the sole purpose of a rule book is to provide clarity, it probably shouldn't be this confusing.
All I know is that Dez definitely caught the ball, probably.
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