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NFL finally changes definition of a “catch” that affected the Patriots in the Super Bowl

There were a few other rule changes, too.

Super Bowl LII - Philadelphia Eagles v New England Patriots Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images

The NFL announced three rule changes and four bylaw amendments ahead of the 2018 season at this year’s annual meeting. Let’s break them down.

Rule Changes

Proposed by Competition Committee; Makes permanent the playing rule that changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line.

This limits the number of kick returns, but the Patriots have already adjusted by having Stephen Gostkowski drop the ball by the goal line with a little more loft. This buys the Patriots a yard or two every drive because their coverage unit is so good and it theoretically adds up to a few points over the course of the season.

The Patriots also acquired All Pro returnman Cordarrelle Patterson, so he is affected too.

Proposed by Competition Committee; Changes standard for a catch.

1. Control of the ball.

2. Two feet down or another body part.

3. A football move such as: A third step; Reaching/extending for the line-to-gain; Or the ability to perform such an act.

This certainly won’t cause anymore grief and I’m looking forward to debates on whether or not a player “had the ability” to make a football move. While this change was needed, I’m not so sure it changes anything other than the scope of the future debates. Which I guess is fine. It passed with a unanimous 32-0 vote.

What isn’t fine is that the NFL apparently followed these rules for the Super Bowl, which could have affected the outcome. According to ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio and Chris Mortensen, the NFL’s Senior Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron admit as much.

“We saw this rule in action during the Super Bowl when the Eagles played the Patriots,” Mortensen said on ESPN’s NFL Live.

“There is no question about that,” Paolantonio replied.

“I think all that was in action in the game,” Mortensen added.

“I talked to Al Riveron [on Monday],” Paolantonio said. “After the press conference...and it was pretty clear to me that it was already in place when they ruled on the Zach Ertz catch for the touchdown and the Corey Clement catch for a touchdown. When [Riveron] ha dthose conversations, he was in New York, with Troy Vincent sitting next to him, with Gene Steratore the referee on the field. They were having that conversation, and they were basically legislating on the fly during the Super Bowl.”

Doesn’t that sound fun?! Apparently, the Patriots ol’ friend Troy Vincent had a hand in the league applying rules differently in the Super Bowl than they had during the regular season.

Sidenote: Me, the night of the Super Bowl.

I think Ertz’ touchdown was the correct call, but Clement’s touchdown could have been overturned if the officiating followed the same guidelines as we saw during the regular season.

Can you imagine the outcry if these calls went in the Patriots favor?

Proposed by Competition Committee; Authorizes the designated member of the Officiating department to instruct on-field game officials to disqualify a player for a flagrant non-football act when a foul for that act is called on the field.

This is a good change because officials can’t see everything.

The Jets withdrew their proposal to switch defensive pass interference to a maximum of 15 yards, which is a bummer. That’s how it should be.

Bylaw Changes

Proposed by Competition Committee; Makes permanent the liberalization of rules for timing, testing, and administering physical examinations to draft-eligible players at a club’s facility.

Proposed by Buffalo; For one year only, amends Article XVII, Section 17.4 to liberalize the rule for reacquisition of a player assigned via waivers.

Proposed by Minnesota; Amends Article XVIII, Section 18.1 to replace the 10-day postseason claiming period with a 24-hour period.

I’m not sure how much this will affect anything.

Proposed by Denver; Amends Article XVII, Section 17.16 to permit clubs to trade players from Reserve/Injured.

I have mixed-but-not-really-mixed feelings about this.

First, anything that leads to more trades could be fun.

But second, and this outweighs everything by a billion degrees, why would it be okay to trade injured players?! Isn’t it important for them to get medical care? I’m sure trading a player to a different team at a vulnerable point in their life won’t ever be a negative.

This seems like a rule concocted by team owners without much consideration for players. Maybe I’m wrong. We’ll see.

The NFL also postponed the decision on allowing teams to hire coaches prior to the end of their season (known as the Josh McDaniels Rule). Both sides have a solid case.

Those in favor of preventing coaches from being hired until after the season say that it’s unfair to have a distracted coach on their staff with the biggest games still on the schedule. Opponents say that the coaches are the ones losing out on opportunities if they have to wait until after the season.

Both are true. A simple fix would be to not allow new coaching hires until the Monday after the Super Bowl. Boom. Done. Fixed.

Apparently Bill Belichick and Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard had a chat after this debate, per ProJo’s Mark Daniels. Belichick, of course, was against the rule proposal.