BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Even though NFL owners won't vote on any proposals regarding what constitutes a reception in games, competition committee co-chairman Rich McKay and officiating director Dean Blandino spent more time on catches -- trying to clarify the rule and fielding questions about it -- than on any other subject Monday.
There will be tweaks to the language but no changes in the catch rule. The criteria for a reception remain the same: control of the ball, two feet on the ground in bounds and enough time to clearly become a runner.
Deviating from that, Blandino explained, would severely complicate the officials' jobs, when the aim is to simplify the calls in real time.
"The key part of the rule allows for consistency in calls on the field," Blandino said.
The rule is also a factor in player safety issues.
"It's tied to the defenseless receiver rule," Blandino said. "You don't want to shorten the time a receiver is protected from hits to the head, etc."
Blandino and McKay recognize and readily admit that determining a catch is among the toughest calls for officials. They cite the speed of the action -- Blandino calls them "bang-bang plays" -- and how TV technology has improved. High-definition replays in slow motion can make virtually every play a subject for controversy.
The league consulted former and current receivers, coaches, front-office personnel and officials while re-evaluating the catch rule.
"They were unanimous that we need to continue to use video to show examples and teach," Blandino said. "Not just for the media and fans but for the players and coaches and officials."
Blandino said the league is "working toward" having an eighth official on the field in games beginning in 2017. That official would focus on the defensive line, particularly in the run game. With the league recently moving the umpire behind the offensive backfield, there is added concern about spotting defensive holding in the trenches.
Not surprisingly, Blandino was not enamored by proposals from some teams to expand replay and coaches' challenges. Suggestions have ranged from coaches' being allowed to challenge any call except on scores and turnovers, which are automatically reviewed, to increasing the number of challenges from two to three. Allowing challenges on penalty calls would lead to "rewriting the rulebook and ... create a different look of officiating," Blandino said.
A proposal to spot the ball at the 25-yard line instead of the 20 on touchbacks after kickoffs is something the competition committee wanted to do several years ago, when the kickoff was moved to the 35-yard line.
"We felt like ... we're still getting a lot of returns from deep in the end zone," McKay said. "This gives the option to take a knee and take [the ball] to the 25."