Newsome: NFL unlikely to tweak reception rule during season
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The controversial non-TD-catch call involving Calvin Johnson Sunday in Chicago prompted widespread criticism for the complicated nature of what currently constitutes a reception by NFL rule, but the likelihood of the league tweaking the rule during the 2010 season is slight, longtime NFL competition committee member Ozzie Newsome said Monday night.
Speaking before his Ravens faced the Jets at the new Meadowlands stadium, Baltimore's general manager acknowledged there was the potential for the competition committee to further define, clarify or change what qualifies as a legal catch. But that's probably a debate for next offseason, when the league's rules-making committee starts meeting after the Super Bowl, Newsome said.
"For now, that's the way the rule is, and making changes during the season is rare,'' Newsome said. "But the debate is there, and we'll continue to study it, to see if we can come up with a better way of addressing it. Right now, we haven't been able to get that clear distinction (of what a catch is). Possibly it could be looked at in season, but I don't know.''
The Lions lost to the Bears 19-14, in large part because Johnson's apparent game-winning touchdown in the final minute was ruled a non-catch despite him getting both feet and his backside down in the end zone. But as he turned his body in landing on the ground, he braced himself using the hand that he held the ball in, and the ball at that point came loose. By rule, it was judged he did not "complete the process of the catch.''
"It was ruled correctly (on Sunday), that much we know,'' said Newsome, the former longtime NFL tight end and a Hall of Fame member. "But we've spent a number of hours looking at the catch, no-catch issue, and we still were not able to come up with any true definition. We'll look at it all again, but it's not just being in the end zone. There's a lot of stuff that goes along with it. But until we can get some clear definition (of a catch), or some distinction on how to have it officiated any differently, that's the rule and we have to leave it as it is.''
While the NFL recently tweaked its new positioning of the umpire in the offensive backfield after it became apparent in the preseason the changes affected the timing of plays run in a no-huddle offense, Newsome said the catch, no-catch rules debate will have no easy or quick fix.
"We'll look at it in the offseason, because that's when we've got more time to actually study it,'' Newsome said. "We need to look at things thoroughly, because if you start to look at things and don't consider all the unintended consequences, then it becomes even more of an issue.
"At least in this case, everybody knew the rule very well. Everybody knew exactly how that play was going to be ruled. There wasn't any debate about how it should have been called given how the rule reads. That's what you want. Now, when we get to the point where we can make a change and all get to the same conclusion and that bright line is drawn, then we'll do it. But right now we're not there.''
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