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'Dez Bryant/Calvin Johnson Rule' clarified by NFL Competition Committee

Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys attempts

Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys attempts a catch over Sam Shields #37 of the Green Bay Packers during the 2015 NFC divisional playoff game at Lambeau Field on Jan. 11, 2015 in Green Bay, Wis. Initially ruled a catch, the call was reversed upon review. Credit: Getty Images / Mike McGinnis

PHOENIX, Ariz. - Dez Bryant's catch still isn't one, even under new language that could decide what constitutes a completion in the NFL.

After the Cowboys' season ended with Bryant appearing to make a fourth-down reception at the 1-yard line in a playoff game against the Packers before the play was ruled incomplete with the use of replay, the NFL's Competition Committee on Monday proposed a "tweak to the language" of one of its most hard-to-define rules.

Now a player must "clearly establish himself as a runner" while having control and both feet inbounds.

The cleaned-up language should remove confusion about whether lunging or stretching the ball forward is a football move or an act common to the game, which the rule previously stipulated.

"For years the requirement for a catch is control, both feet and after that the receiver had to have the ball long enough to perform a [football] act," vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said at the NFL owners' annual spring meetings. "It was that act common to the game, football move, that created some confusion."

"We spent a lot of time on it. I think it really clears things up," said Rams coach Jeff Fisher, a member of the committee. "If you're going to the ground, hang on to the ball. It's really pretty simple. To include if you become a runner, I think it really cleans things up for us. If you start talking about reaching the ball out, you invite a lot of gray area back into the interpretation."

The rule has been difficult for fans and players to grasp since the Lions' Calvin Johnson first brought it to light with a would-be touchdown against the Bears that was reversed in 2010. It became even more controversial after Bryant's play in January.

"We're not talking about a lot of plays over the course of the five seasons since the Calvin Johnson play," Blandino said. "This allows us to consistently officiate the rule."


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