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Competition Committee proposes change to catch and replay rules (with video examples)

An early look at what the Competition Committee is proposing for the upcoming owners meetings.



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The NFL Competition Committee is considering several rule changes, first reported by Mark Maske of the Washington Post, that would change how instant replay impacts the game. The committee will formally announce it’s proposals Friday. NFL owners will meet in April to formally vote on the rule changes. 24 out of 32 owners need to vote “yes” to change a rule.

Among the highlights that appear to be making the committee’s agenda list instant replay in New York would be able to eject a player for flagrant fouls, even if the officiating crew does not.

A change the definition of a catch would allow slight movement of the ball and would drop the surviving the ground requirement. In other words, Dez would have caught it under the new proposal.

A proposed change would have the definition of defenseless player to include a scrambling quarterback.

Also, it is proposed that coaches will only have 40 seconds to decide whether to challenge a play, even if there is a TV timeout or other longer stoppage.

The committee also decided not to adopt the college game’s targeting rule that would carry an automatic ejection. They also apparently will decline to propose changing defensive pass interference from a spot foul to 15 yards and an automatic first down; the Jets will have a proposal to do so. 

The Competition Committee also has a point of emphasis that directs the officials to blow the whistle sooner to prevent unnecessary roughness when a ball carrier is stopped in a pile. Points of emphasis are usually not subject to a vote by the owners.

As always, rule changes bring about unintended consequences. How can instant replay phone in and eject a player without re-officiating a play? What happens if the crew didn’t call a foul? Will the replay official then impose a foul, thus changing the result of the play? This will also open a can of worms where instant replay makes a judgement call. What’s the next judgement call to go to replay?

I doubt the pass interference proposal will pass. If a receiver beats a defender 30 yards downfield, the defender will simply mug the receiver and only lose 15 yards. That dog won’t hunt.

Fans want the catch rule to change. The owners want the catch rule to change. The catch rule will change. Will we see more cheap catches in 2018? It’s a trade owners and fans are apparently willing to make.

The rest of the rule changes will most likely pass to help keep the game moving and to improve player safety. 

We will have a live coverage of rule change proposals as they are announced Friday morning.

Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"