Catch Rule Criteria Explained At League Meetings: 'Control, Two Feet, Plus Time'

BOCA RATON, Fla. – Fourteen months have passed, and the question still gets debated among fans and observers as fervently as that cold day in Green Bay: Did Dez Bryant catch it?

Although there isn't a proposal this week here at the NFL Annual Meeting to further tweak the catch rule's criteria, the subject resurfaced during Monday's Competition Committee press conference. Dean Blandino, the NFL's vice president of officiating, said the league organized focus groups comprising former and current NFL receivers, former head coaches and former game officials, to discuss the rule's interpretation.

The basic conditions for a catch, Blandino explained, are these: Control, two feet, plus time.

"Control, two feet and then the rule book definition of time is to have the ball long enough to clearly become a runner," Blandino said. "That means you have the ability to ward off, avoid contact by a defender, advance the football."

The element of "control" is most applicable to ­Bryant's 31-yard play that was initially ruled a catch in the waning minutes of the Cowboys' 2014-15 Divisional Round loss to the Packers. The officials concluded via instant replay that Bryant did not maintain possession all the way to the ground.

Last March, the Competition Committee tweaked the rule's language that previously stated a receiver must "make a football move" with the ball – an attempt to clarify confusion over whether Bryant's two-step lunge toward the end zone was indeed a football move. According to last year's updated rule, a receiver must "clearly establish himself as a runner" and maintain possession in bounds throughout the process. Bryant's play still would have been ruled incomplete.

This offseason, the league and its focus groups looked closer at the rule's interpretation with the goal of establishing more consistency with its calls.

"We had two meetings with each group and we looked at tape and we looked at the play and we talked about the rule and after discussing it with them, both groups were unanimous in that they didn't feel the rule needed to change," Blandino said. "But we just have to continue to use video to show examples and teach and educate and not just for media and fans, but for our coaches, our players and our game officials."

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