Washington Football

Quick Links

The standard of the NFL catch has officially changed

dez-bryant-catch.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

The standard of the NFL catch has officially changed

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Maybe it's too late for Jesse James and the Steelers or Zach Miller and the Bears.

No matter, the NFL has a simplified catch rule designed to eliminate confusion -- and, the league hopes, controversy -- about receptions.

Team owners unanimously approved the new language Tuesday, with basically three elements defining a catch:

--having control of the ball;

--getting two feet down or another body part;

--making a football move, such as taking a third step or extending the ball.

"We wanted to simplify and provide clarity," Pittsburgh coach and longtime competition committee member Mike Tomlin said. "It was time to do so after we got caught up in language that didn't do that. The language was obscure and confusing."

The committee cited overturned receptions by tight ends James and Miller last season among the dozens of plays they reviewed "dozens of times," according to committee chairman Rick McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons.

RELATED: 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT 7.0

The James call was particularly impactful because the Steelers wound up losing to New England in a December game that determined home-field advantage for the playoffs. The Patriots got it and wound up in the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh lost its first postseason game to Jacksonville.

Just as infamous were negated catches by Dez Bryant of the Cowboys in a 2015 playoff game at Green Bay, and Calvin Johnson of the Lions in 2010 against the Bears.

"I think the third step recommendation was excellent," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "It cleans up a majority of the (catches) that were in question. The old rule was so technical. We're better off today than in the past."

Added Tom Coughlin, the Jaguars' top executive:

"First of all, simplicity is the key. I think this is a fan-driven concept here because a lot of people have no idea why was this thing called that way and why was the next one not called that way. ... I think we've cleaned up a lot of that, and that will get the fans more engrossed in the game. It's going to be much easier for them to understand what is and what isn't."

Late Tuesday, the owners rewrote the rule on using the crown of the helmet, making it a 15-yard penalty to initiate any hit with it.

McKay called it "a significant change," noting that it was a "technique too dangerous for the player doing it and the player being hit."

McKay said the tackle made by the Steelers' Ryan Shazier last season that resulted in the linebacker suffering a spinal injury -- Shazier underwent spinal stabilization surgery two days later -- was not the impetus for the change. But it was an example of what needs to be eliminated from the game.

"This one technique, we saw so many hits when a player lowered his head and delivered a hit and either hurt himself or the player he was hitting," McKay said. "It was time for a change of this magnitude."

While the offender could be disqualified, owners did not call for an automatic ejection on such a play -- at least not yet. In college football, when a player is penalized for targeting and a replay review affirms it, he is ejected.

Also approved Tuesday was making permanent spotting the ball at the 25-yard line after a touchback on a kickoff; allowing players on injured reserve to be traded; and authorizing a designated member of the officiating department to instruct on-field game officials to eject a player for a flagrant non-football act when a foul for that act is called on the field.

RELATED: RANKING THE REDSKINS BEST DRAFT PICKS SINCE 2000

Withdrawn by the Jets was a proposal to limit defensive pass interference to 15 yards, the penalty in college, except for egregious incidents. The competition committee was not in favor of such a change, but McKay and football operations chief Troy Vincent said the idea has "some momentum." It is likely to come up again in future meetings.

Tabled was a proposal to allow an assistant coach whose team is still playing in the postseason to sign a contract to become head coach elsewhere. That's been dubbed the "Josh McDaniels Rule" after the Patriots offensive coordinator agreed to become the Colts coach in January, then reneged and returned to New England soon after the Super Bowl.

That suggestion also is expected to come up at future meetings, beginning in May at the Atlanta owners get-together.

Also tabled was whether to allow video on sideline Surface tablets that teams use now to view photos. McKay said the voters weren't there to pass it.

On-field officials supported having a member of the staff in New York calling for an ejection in certain blatant circumstances that involve non-football acts such as fighting. They cited the difficulty of determining the culprits in a fight or other such situations.

Quick Links

Derrius Guice reportedly hurt his knee again before Washington released him

Derrius Guice reportedly hurt his knee again before Washington released him

A news storm ensued after Derrius Guice was arrested on domestic violence charges and subsequently released by the Washington Football Team. Seemingly lost in the shuffle was some news about yet another knee injury for the third-year running back. 

According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Guice hurt his knee again the day before he was released.

This would have been huge news for the former second-round pick, who's grappled with knee injuries throughout the first two seasons of his career. He suffered a torn ACL as a rookie, a meniscus tear at the beginning of last season and an MCL sprain later on in 2019 as well.

There was hope for Guice to become a featured back, and he certainly had the ability to become one had he been able to stay healthy. 

RELATED: RIVERA EXPLAINS DECISION TO CUT GUICE

It's unclear how much another knee injury had to do with Guice's release, though it certainly couldn't have made things easier on Guice's hopes to stay on the roster. He later went unclaimed on waivers, making him a free agent for the first time in his young career.

Washington doesn't have much time to worry about Guice now. They have to figure out how to distribute the carries between Adrian Peterson, J.D. McKissic, Peyton Barber, Antonio Gibson and Bryce Love without a preseason schedule to test things out.

With their first taste of game action this season set as a September 13 clash with the Eagles, Peterson figures to start off as the lead back behind Dwayne Haskins based on experience alone. Peterson has over 3,000 career carries under his belt while the other four options have combined for 639.

Stay connected to the team with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM NEWS:

Quick Links

Alex Smith could make 'interesting' battle for QB practice reps with Dwayne Haskins

Alex Smith could make 'interesting' battle for QB practice reps with Dwayne Haskins

Training camp should be a major opportunity for Washington Football Team quarterback Dwayne Haskins to get a lot of work with new offensive coordinator Scott Turner and the new playbook, but if Alex Smith is healthy, the reps for Haskins might shrink.

"The biggest thing we’ve got to do is not make sure we’re divvying up the reps as evenly as possible, but we divvy up who they work against. This could be a very interesting challenge for us because of QB Alex Smith. If Alex is healthy and continues to get healthy and we do activate him, he’s going to be in the throes of this competition," head coach Ron Rivera said on Monday. 

The Washington Football Team drafted Haskins 15th overall last year, only after Smith suffered a broken leg in November 2018. Rivera wasn't around for either of the decisions to draft Haskins or trade for Smith, but now the new coach gets to try and solve the QB riddle in Washington. 

Haskins struggled as a rookie in part because he didn't get much practice work with the first team offense. It was obvious how little Haskins knew of the offense and his offensive teammates when he first got on the field in Week 4 last year. Some of that might have been self-inflicted, regardless, Haskins needed the work. 

Now in his second season, Haskins got exactly zero team drills in this offseason due to Coronavirus. None. 

So, with what should be the most important training camp of his young professional career, Haskins again might face another hurdle in the return of Smith. 

Smith deserves tremendous accolades for his recovery after 17 surgeries and intense infection in his leg. But is Smith getting back on the field the best thing for a young Washington team trying to rebuild?

Haskins is 23. Smith is 36.

CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE TO THE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TALK PODCAST

Haskins has tremendous potential, Smith has already proven he can produce.

Haskins has started seven NFL games. Smith has started seven NFL playoff games. 

Considering all of that, Haskins should get the most work of any Washington passer.

Take note that Rivera didn't say the reps needed to be equitable, but rather the level of competition. Haskins needs more reps than Smith or Kyle Allen.

RELATED: WHICH WASHINGTON PLAYER HAS A LOT RIDING ON THE 2020 SEASON?

Smith has been in the NFL since he was drafted first overall in 2005. Allen started 13 games for Rivera and Turner in the last two seasons. Haskins hasn't even been through a padded practice with Rivera and Turner. 

It makes total sense to get Allen reps against the first-team defense. He needs to be prepared. And should Smith get medically cleared to be back on the field against a defense, he should get some of those reps too. Washington needs to see what Smith has left if he actually gets cleared for football.

Still, Haskins should get the majority of that work. He needs it, and Rivera needs to see what he has in the former Ohio State star. 

Smith's recovery is an incredible story, but Rivera's plan in Washington is a long-term rebuild to put together a consistent playoff team. That means getting Haskins on the field as much as possible. 

Stay connected to the team with the MyTeams app. Click here to download for comprehensive coverage of your teams.

MORE WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM NEWS: