Why can’t the NFL simplify the always-confusing catch rule with something as straightforward as saying any time a player has control of the ball and two feet down it’s a catch? According to Hall of Fame G.M. Bill Polian, it’s because of player safety concerns.
Polian is a member of the league’s catch committee, which is reviewing the catch rules for possible changes. Polian thinks the current rules give protection to defenseless receivers who are still in the process of making a catch, but if the rules changed to make the catch final as soon as the receiver has the ball and both feet down, that would expose receivers to more hits to the head.
“Any change you would make to catch-no catch would have a deleterious effect on defenseless player [rules],” Polian told the Washington Post. “That’s off the table. For five or 10 controversial plays a year, you’re not going to put players’ safety at risk.”
Polian said any rule change that would open up defenseless receivers to more hits is a non-starter.
“The competition committee can help the officials,” Polian said. “But to change it doesn’t work and you’re not going to change aspects of player safety for five plays a year that are controversial. . . . Do I know what the committee is going to do? No. But it’s clear to me, and I think to everyone else, that defenseless player is a Siamese twin of catch-no catch. You cannot separate the two. And you cannot make changes to player safety.”
But why couldn’t a new catch rule be written in conjunction with the player safety rules, to give a receiver a catch as soon as he has the ball and two feet down, but still give him the same defenseless player protection that he has under the current catch rules? There’s no reason the NFL’s catch rule can’t be improved while also improving player safety rules.