In this feature, Football 101, NFL officials help explain and clarify some of the rules that impact the game. This week, umpire Tony Steratore and back judge Tony Michalek explain what truly consitutes a catch:
Summary from the Official NFL Rule Book - Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3
According to the rule book, a foward pass is complete if a player, who is inbounds, does three key things:
- Secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground
- Touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands
- Maintains control of the ball long enough, after the first two requirements have been fulfilled, to enable him to perform any act common to the game (i.e., maintaining control long enough to pitch it, pass it, advance with it, or avoid or ward off an opponent, etc.).
The Official Point of View
"It's control, two feet down, and able to demonstrate an element that's common to the game," Michalek said. "In other words, if he catches it and gets two feet down, now he can pitch it, he could lateral it to a teammate, he can do something that is common to the game. He can do something that demonstrates he has control of the ball.
"There's the black and white answer, which is two feet down and possession, or another body part - an elbow equals two feet, a hand does not equal two feet - and the ability to demonstrate control."
Sometimes, however, a gray area arises.
"I think the gray area starts when it comes to the aspect of whether he can demonstrate control and do something common to the game," Steratore explained.
"[For example], the ones where he has possession and the second foot has just come down, and now either there's contact or for some other reason he loses possession."
Last week, umpire Tony Steratore detailed what constitutes intentional grounding.