NFL Referees at their pre season "Officiating Clinic" here in Texas pic.twitter.com/shaDSpAPbh
— Ben Murphy (@BenMurphyWCBD) July 15, 2016
As officials settled into their annual clinic in Dallas, senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino addressed the topic we’re both sick of and engrossed with: the process of the catch. The goal for fans and officials alike remains simply clarification and education, not an adjustment of the rule itself.
“The biggest thing is we all have to be on the same page. The rule is a good rule,” Blandino stated. “The rule, with minor tweaks, has not changed since the 1940s.”
Since this nearly dead horse was a point of emphasis for the 2015 season and a major topic this offseason, Blandino simply wrapped up the issue with a clear and concise overview. WFAA sports anchor Mike Leslie captured the discussion on his Facebook page.
Despite changes in the wording, the catch process involves three elements: control, two feet, and time. A player must control the ball, get two feet in bounds, and have the ball long enough to become a runner (the time element). If the player is going to the ground, he must control the ball all the way through the contact with the ground. There is nothing a player can do on his way to the ground that can demonstrate a catch — reach, stretch or lunge. In Blandino’s words, the player must “survive the ground.”
The clarification of the rule has been bolstered by examples: situations such as a receiver turning upfield, tucking the ball away, or having the ability to ward off a defender. These examples are not meant to be an exhaustive list, but are simply ways to identify a receiver becoming a runner.
Throughout this discussion, Blandino mentioned that “bang-bang” plays obviate the need to officiate the many moving aspects of the play. A bang-bang play refers to any contact or event that happens so quickly that the time element cannot be determined. While one of its most common uses is in the context of pass interference, the bang-bang play also can pertain to a catch/no catch. Blandino called for consistency in this situation: when in doubt, the bang-bang play is ruled incomplete.
Replay officials will also be included in this analysis to ensure that the time element is taken into consideration. Instructions to replay officials will be to run the play at full speed and not to go too slow as to distort the time element.
In Blandino’s meetings with teams, all but one coaching staff had an “a-ha” moment of clarity on the issue, subtly referring to the Dallas staff being the outlier. In his remarks in the Dallas Morning News, Blandino reiterated that the rule was applied correctly in the reversal of the catch by Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant in the 2014 playoffs, and that these clarifications don’t change the outcome of that play.
Image: Ben Murphy/@benmurphytv; video: Mike Leslie, WFAA
Matt Holmquist has joined Football Zebras as a contributing writer. This is the first of what we hope are many posts from him. Welcome, Matt.