The NFL has changed the language of the catch rule this offseason and it caught the attention of a player who was closely linked to the past definition.
Calvin Johnson was playing for the Lions in 2010 when he went for a pass in the end zone in the opening weekend of the season. Johnson grabbed the ball, got his feet down and then lost the ball when his right hand hit the ground. The ball was ruled incomplete after a conference by officials, leading many to grumble about the call and foreshadowing other apparent catches wiped out because the player was not judged to complete the process through going to the ground.
The language of the rule now reads that a ball is caught when the player has control, two feet or another body part down, and makes a football move while making no mention of completing the process.
“Like I say, it just took them seven years to figure out what we knew on Day 1,” Johnson said, via the Detroit Free Press. “… I think you [have to take the human element] into account. Yeah, slow motion can show every bitty frame, but you have to also take into account what actually happened in real time, I feel like. You take it slow mo and that easy catch can turn into, ‘Dang, he bobbled it a little bit.'”
Johnson quipped that they “ought to add [the 2010 play] to my stat sheet.” That won’t happen, but the next player in a similar position should get to celebrate a score.