The NFL has announced the final portions of a proposal to revise its controversial catch rule, one that would most notably eliminate the requirement to maintain control of the ball throughout the process of going to the ground.
The proposal, tweeted Wednesday by senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron, establishes three elements of a catch: control, in bounds and a "football move."
After much deliberation & input from coaches, players, @NFLLegends, & club executives, the @NFL Competition Committee will recommend the following language simplifying the catch rule at the Annual Meeting next week. pic.twitter.com/hJwH5YYBRK— Al Riveron (@alriveron) March 21, 2018
ESPN previewed all three elements and the possible obstacles on March 8. They will apply whether a player is going to the ground or not. Riveron's tweet for the first time acknowledged how the NFL would define the "football move," which will measure the amount of time required for possession to be awarded.
A football move, according to the proposal, will be an act such as a third step, a reach toward the line to gain yardage or the ability to perform such an act. On-field officials will be required to judge whether it occurs.
NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent said the catch will continue to be subject to replay. "If someone asks, 'What is a catch?'" Vincent said, "we can say, 'It's control, two feet and perform a football act.' OK, now that makes sense."
The NFL has considered making similar changes in the past but decided against it because, former officiating chief Dean Blandino told ESPN, it would likely swap one set of controversies for another.
The current proposal will ensure that controversial incompletions -- such as Calvin Johnson's infamous play in 2010 and Bryant's in 2014 -- will instead be ruled completions in the future, but Blandino said it would also open a new realm of judgment in determining whether a "football move" took place.
"If the receiver performs an act common to the game," Blandino said, "if he performs a football move, whatever you want to call it, on the way to the ground, if you say that supersedes him having to hold the ball all the way to the ground, then that adds another layer of judgment for the official and in replay.
"You're just shifting the debate from, 'Was he going to the ground and did he hold on to it?' to 'Did he make a football move?'"
Vincent said that no rule will be perfect, but the new proposal has wide support, including from officials who were a part of the development process.
"When you have alignment and agreement with the player and the fan and the coaches and the officials," Vincent said, "that's game over. What are we waiting on? That's what we had. You had a consensus that something needed to be done. We got into the room. It is perfect? No. But we're getting there."
The competition committee doesn't want to remove the third element entirely for two reasons. First, it would lead to fumble rulings instead of incompletions on "bang-bang" plays. Second, it would eliminate the ability to provide a defenseless receiver with protection in the immediate moments after the ball arrives.
The proposal will be presented for vote to owners next week at the league's annual meetings in Orlando, Florida.