“There will not be a rule change proposed for catch/no catch, just possibly a tweak of the language,” the person said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the committee’s proposals have not yet been announced publicly.
The person also said the committee currently does not intend to propose making pass interference reviewable by instant replay. The owners still could end up considering a replay-related proposal submitted by an individual team, however.
“The competition committee will not propose anything on replay,” the person said.
The committee has deliberated on possible rule changes regarding what constitutes a legal catch and what should be reviewable by replay in the aftermath of two high-profile plays during last season’s NFL playoffs.
The Dallas Cowboys beat the Detroit Lions in an NFC playoff game after the officials threw a flag for a key pass interference penalty against the Cowboys but then decided to pick up the flag and not enforce a penalty. The following weekend, the Cowboys lost at Green Bay when a fourth-down catch by Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant late in the game was overturned via replay and called an incompletion.
The officials and the league’s officiating department cited the Calvin Johnson rule in the Bryant play. That rule, named for the Detroit Lions wide receiver who was involved in a similar play, says that if a receiver makes a catch while going to the ground, he must maintain control of the football while on the ground to be awarded a legal catch. Bryant was ruled not to have done that.
NFL representatives have said that the rule gives on-field officials a clear standard to use while trying to judge whether a catch was made or not. They have acknowledged, though, that in some cases, like the Bryant play, calling a play correctly by the rule does not necessarily coincide with what onlookers believe while watching a play.
It is not clear what changes the competition committee might make to the wording of the rule.
The competition committee was said to have been sorting through roughly a dozen replay-related proposals in recent weeks. There was sentiment expressed by some in and around the league in the aftermath of the Cowboys-Lions game for pass interference to be made reviewable by replay. But NFL representatives have said they’re not certain that replay reviews would necessarily make for more consistent interference calls, given that those calls are difficult judgment decisions.
A replay proposal by a team still could be considered by the owners when they meet in Phoenix later this month at the annual league meeting. Any rule change would have to be approved by at least 24 of the 32 teams.
The person with knowledge of the competition committee’s deliberations said momentum remains stalled for expanding the NFL playoff field from 12 to 14 teams beginning next season. The person said it’s doubtful that the measure takes effect for the 2015 season.
It seemingly remains possible for subsequent seasons and the additional postseason games potentially could be shopped to the television networks at the same time the NFL sells its TV package of Thursday night regular season games.