The NFL offseason has been entertaining to say the least. Players and coaches moving from team to team OR (Team to broadcast booth to team), the lowly Browns making major moves, more concussion discussion, and some changes to the highly debated catch rule. The past 7 or 8 seasons, nobody knows what a catch; The players, the refs, the fans (Well some like to think they know what a catch is if it favors their team) but nobody knows for certain what is or is not a catch. Did he control the ball through a football move? Did he survive the ground? Was he juggling it as he went out of bounds? And so many more questions that remain judgement calls by the referees, and the relay crew in New York.

Catch Rule

This catch rule has changed the outcome of games and was even a large discussion after the Super Bowl between the New England Patriots, and the Philadelphia Eagles. Zach Ertz was reaching for the goal line when the ball popped out of his hands. He ended up catching the ball after the slight bobble and it was ruled a touchdown. As football fans know, all scoring plays are reviewed, and the touchdown was upheld.

A similar play occurred in the Steelers vs Patriots game late in the season that completely decided the outcome of that game. Tight End for the Steelers Jesse James caught the pass and immediately reached for the goal line as he was falling to his knees. As he went down the ball and his hands hit the ground which made the ball jar loose in his grip. The play was called a touchdown on the field which would have put the Steelers in the lead with less than 30 seconds left in the game. However, as I mentioned before all scoring plays are reviewed and this one was no different. After further review, the call was overturned, and the Patriots went on to win a critical game 27–24. The teams had identical records with only 3 games left in the season which made this reversed call even larger in the grand scheme of things.

Now why were these two different, but very similar plays ruled on the field a touchdown, but one was upheld, and one was reversed? The inconsistency in calling these plays account for much of the confusion amongst fans and players. However, the referees and the replay crew in New York are obviously confused about what is in the NFL’s actual rule book on what is and what is not a catch. This new Catch Rule implemented by the NFL is aiming to eliminate the confusion for all parties, and ultimately eliminate these types of calls deciding the outcome of any given game.

There have been plenty of other catch or no catch calls throughout the years including Calvin Johnson, Zach Miller, Harry Douglas, Dez Bryant, the list goes on. Some of which the NFL has later claimed were called incorrectly which helps nobody considering it is sometimes years later that they come out with these claims. If they make the call, whether it is the right one or not, they should stick by it for eternity as to not upset any parties involved in the particular game/ play.

Here are the catch rules as they were stated in March of 2015, and then the new simplified rule that was stated this year in March of 2018;

The old Rule was stated as such:

The newly simplified catch rule is as follows:

1. Control of the ball.
2. Two feet down or another body part.
3. A football move such as: A third step; Reaching/extending for the line-to-gain; Or the ability to perform such an act.

**The key change to the rule eliminated the “going-to-the-ground” element of the previous rule.**

Only time will tell whether this simplified version of the previous catch rule will change any of the confusion on controversial catches or incompletions. As a football fan, I am hoping that these calls no longer determine the outcome of games, especially playoff games or even the Super Bowl. The new rule looks more cut and dry rather than the previous rule which had too many considerations and left the calls up to judgement. The only part of the new rule that is left up to judgement is the last part of the “football move” category when the refs/ replay crews will have to determine if a player has the “ability to perform such an act” which is huge grey area. Time to put our trust in the officials and replay crews in New York to eliminate the confusion on what is and is not a catch and eliminate the possibility of one of these calls deciding a game.

“Lowering the Head” Rule

The other new rule that the NFL is looking to implement this season is the Lowering of the head rule. This rule is being put in place to try and somehow reduce the use of the helmet to tackle or block an opposing player. The previous rule only penalizes players for using the “Crown of the Helmet” where as this new rule will penalize or even eject players who lower their heads to make a hit on an opponent.

This new rule is looking to address a few different things. The first and main reason to implement this rule is try and eliminate the use of the head and hopefully reduce the amount of concussions. CTE, and studies relating to the trauma to the head by football players has been an ongoing discussion for a few seasons now. It has gone so far as to influence some states to ban football for kids until they reach a certain age. Many parents are steering their children away from football as an extracurricular activity due to the recent long- term effects of brain trauma studies.

This rule is by no means going to stop head injuries from occurring, nor do I believe it will change the way players hit. Some guys have lead with their heads their entire football career. That isn’t something that is going to change overnight especially considering the speed at which things happen in Football. I stand by the argument that players would stop using their heads to tackle if helmets were removed from the game. If they don’t have the “safety” of a helmet, they would be more conscious of their head, and not use it as a weapon on the field. Now considering that is never going to happen, head injuries are always going to be a part of the game, and every sport for that matter.

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