Remember this shit? Remember how this was ruled not a catch, and the Cowboys went on to lose to the Packers in the playoffs?
This was initially ruled a catch on the field, but after review it was decided that Bryant was still in the process making the catch when he hit the ground and fumbled it. In order, presumably, to prevent situations like this in the future, the NFL has updated the relevant section of its completed pass rule. Not to make what Bryant did a catch in the future, but to explicitly state that it will not be.
Via former VP of Officiating Mike Pereira on Twitter, the new rule gets rid of language about a “football move.” Here’s how it will read:
A player is considered to be going to the ground if he does not remain upright long enough to demonstrate that he is clearly a runner. If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball until after his initial contact with the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.
And for comparison’s sake, here is the relevant portion of the old rule (emphasis mine):
A player who makes a catch may advance the ball. A forward pass iscomplete (by the offense) or intercepted (by the defense) if a player, who is inbounds: a) secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground; and b) touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands; and c) maintains control of the ball long enough, after (a) and (b) have been fulfilled, to enable him to perform any actcommon to the game (i.e., maintaining control long enough to pitch it, pass it, advance with it, or avoid or ward off anopponent, etc.).
If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contactby an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the fieldof play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the passis incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete.
Pereira tweets that this new wording makes it so that Bryant’s catch would have been “clearly incomplete,” but I’m not so sure. Now, instead of watching the above clip and determining whether or not Bryant performed a football move, you have to determine whether or not he remained upright long enough to “demonstrate that he is clearly a runner.” I guess I would agree that he isn’t a runner in the above clip, but he did manage to take two steps and propel himself forward. What if he had taken a third step before falling, would that be considered running?
Besides the fact that the rule remains ambiguous, the NFL is going in the wrong direction. Dez Bryant’s catch, like Calvin Johnson’s five years before, was an incredible feat of athleticism, and a highly exciting play. The rule was applied correctly in both cases, but that’s precisely the problem, as the practical application of this rule is to take away exciting-as-all-hell catches that would be considered catches everywhere ... except the NFL rule book.
The NFL has traded one ambiguously worded rule for another, and the new one will be even more likely to take away phenomenal plays. That seems backwards.