In the NFL, a toe is a foot but a heel isn’t
Today’s 10-pack includes a question regarding the reality that ten toes (or as few as two) can count as two feet when it comes to catching a pass.
The official rule book says that, to complete a catch, a player must get two feet in bounds, or some body part other than a hand. But the rule book doesn’t address what it means to get a foot in bounds.
Routinely, players drag toes without every getting the rest of the foot in bounds. So when Saints tight end Jimmy Graham planted his right heel into the end zone on Sunday, before the toe of his right foot landed out of bounds, it seemed only fair treat the heel the same way the foot would be treated.
Apparently, the NFL endorses heel discrimination.
The NFL has confirmed via email that the official rule book merely says that a player must get two feet in bounds, with no elaboration or explanation regarding the ability of a player to make a catch while only ever getting a toe or the top of the foot down. But the league interprets the rule to mean that a toe is a foot, as long as the toe is dragged. If in the act of dragging the toe the foot comes down and any portion of it is out of bounds, a catch was not made.
For that same reason, if the heel strikes the ground and in the normal process of taking a step the front of the foot lands out of bounds, a catch has not been made.
This interpretation comes from something called “Approved Ruling 15.79" of the 2011 Casebook. Though it would make far more sense for the official rule book to set forth the circumstances in which part of a foot equates to a foot, the crew working the Saints-Titans game on Sunday correctly applied the rule, vague as it may be.