PHOENIX, Ariz. – The threshold for what constitutes a catch when a receiver falls to the ground is changing, a member of the league’s competition committee told Sun Media on Sunday.
In a conference call last week, the committee announced that the controversial “complete-the-catch-to-the-ground” rule will stay, with different wording revealed to owners on Monday, when the league’s annual meeting kicks off here at the Arizona Biltmore resort.
Green Bay Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy explained in an interview with Sun Media how the wording — and threshold — will change.
“It’s really putting an emphasis on if you can establish yourself as a runner,” Murphy said, as owners, executives, GMs and coaches continued to arrive for the annual meeting, which concludes Wednesday.
“If you can establish that you’re a runner, then by definition you’re not going to the ground.”
New York Giants co-owner John Mara confirmed what Murphy said in a scrum with a handful of reporters.
“You’ve got to have at least two feet on the ground and clearly demonstrate that you’re a runner,” Mara said, per Jim Corbett of USA Today.
Murphy raised the example of the NFC divisional playoff game in January by which his team, the Packers, benefitted by the rule — when replay overturned what looked for all the world like a catch by Dez Bryant, that might have set up a late go-ahead touchdown by Dallas.
“Dez Bryant was falling to the ground,” Murphy said. “He couldn’t establish himself as a runner.”
Um, even though Bryant took three steps, switched the ball to a different hand and lunged toward the goal line?
“Well, if you watch it — and we’ve got video on it — there’s a real difference between being able to run, and what the rule used to be: ‘make a football move,’” Murphy said.
That suggests that the current addendum to Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3 — often referred to as defining “a football move” — is toast.
That addendum states that when a receiver falls to the ground upon making a catch attempt, it’s a reception only if the receiver “maintains control of the ball long enough … to enable him to perform any act common to the game (i.e., maintaining control long enough to pitch it, pass it, advance with it, or avoid or ward off an opponent, etc.).”
The apparent new wording of the rule would be both a conceptual improvement and a victory for brevity. Even though the rule still is stupid, it says here.
Bryant caught that ball. Figure out a rule that makes it so.
What’s more, isn’t changing a threshold in a rule tantamount to changing that rule? Shouldn’t it have been included among the proposed rules changes?
“I think it’s really just a clarification, not a rule change,” Murphy said.
As for other matters at the annual meeting, the most impactful will be the discussion about Los Angeles. That is, whether one, two or perhaps even no clubs will eventually relocate to Los Angeles.
St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke has joined up with an investment group to privately finance a futuristic $1.86-billion, 80,000-seat stadium on obtained property in Inglewood. The San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders are in cahoots to build a different stadium in Carson.
No resolution will come here, nor likely not before the fall. But you can bet that behind the scenes, huddled discussions will take place as to which initiative owners might ultimately back.
Meantime, owners will vote by midday Wednesday whether to approve, reject or table the official 28 playing-rule, bylaw and resolution proposals.
These include expanding video replay in myriad ways, lengthening the extra-point kick by 13 yards, minimum two-possession overtimes, eliminating the 75-man roster cutdown, and experimenting in the preseason with possible nine-point touchdowns.
Murphy echoed other competition-committee members in saying the 13 video-replay rules proposals have little chance of passing.
“I know there’s a sense that the rules that have been proposed are taking replay beyond what it was originally intended to be,” Murphy told Sun Media.
“The argument for change is, Why don’t we use this great technology to improve the game? But I think our view is, Let’s improve the on-field officiating, rather than changing — quite dramatically — instant-replay rules.”
At least 75% of owners must endorse any change. That means 24 of 32. So if all nine members of the competition committee (who are from different teams) are unanimous in opposing any rule change, and so long as their voting owners agree with them, then there’s mathematically no chance of approval.
We’ll learn on Monday or Tuesday which teams have been awarded compensatory draft picks this year, essentially for having lost more or better free agents in 2014 than they signed.
As for the various league investigations into alleged shady behaviour by team personnel, don’t expect any judgments or punishments to be handed out here. A cynic would predict that it’ll happen soon afterward.
The investigations: Deflate-gate; the admission by Cleveland Browns GM Ray Farmer that he texted a coach during a game (forbidden by NFL bylaws); the charge that the Falcons piped in recorded crowd noise at home games (also forbidden by NFL edict); and the tampering charge against New York Jets owner Woody Johnson for publicly saying in December he’d like to have star cornerback Darrelle Revis back, when he was still under contract with the Patriots.