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The NFL has officially changed the catch rule. Will it actually be better?

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Hopefully less reviews, and more catches!

NFL: New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The day everybody’s been waiting for has arrived. NFL owners voted to change the polarizing catch rule that was put forth by the competition committee, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. The vote was a unanimous 32-0 in favor of the change.

The catch rule has been one that has haunted players, coaches, and fans for years now. Some games have been decided by it, officiating crews torched for following it, and newfound careers made out of it, with every NFL broadcast having some kind of officiating guru on it.

So what does the new catch rule look like?

The language in the new catch rule appears as such:

1. Control

2. 2 feet down or another body part

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

NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent told the Washington Post, “We worked backward. We looked at plays and said: Do you want that to be a catch? And then we applied that to the rule.”

Mike Tomlin, one of two head coaches on the competition committee, reportedly played a big part in the change:

Tomlin and the Steelers were famously on the wrong side of the old rule last season when Jesse James’ game-winning touchdown against the Patriots was overturned.

How does this differ from the old catch rule?

Under the old catch rule, the third step was the player maintained control of the football after establishing himself as a runner.

The criteria looked like this, under the old rules:

A player has the ball long enough to become a runner when, after his second foot is on the ground, he is capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent, tucking the ball away, turning up field, or taking additional steps.

With that change, there’s some non-catches from the past that would be catches today.

“The Dez Bryant play, that’d be a catch” Vincent said. “The Jesse James play, that’d be a catch.”

It was the Bryant play more than three years ago that started turning the wheels of change.

The damage has been done for James, though. “It is going to bother me forever,” he said. “It’s just one of those plays, defining moments in a career and season for sure. It put a loss on our stat sheet. That one hurt.”

How will this change games in general?

Assuming this holds up, there should be fewer reviews during games, which could get lengthy at times. We can all be happy about that.

And of course, the outcome of some games will be different with the change. Ask James.

Is everyone going to still be confused by the catch rule?

Hopefully not, but there’s no guarantee here. In particular, “the ability to perform” a football move seems open to interpretation — and controversy.

But that doesn’t mean the change is bad. One of the things some people enjoy about sports is the debate it brings. So if there’s room to find an argument, it will be had.

But we can all agree that the new catch rule — on paper — is better.