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Super Bowl LII: Roger Goodell wants to start over with catch rule

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a news

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a news conference in advance of Super Bowl LII, Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018, in Minneapolis. Credit: AP / Matt Slocum

MINNEAPOLIS — What’s a catch? Good question, one that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would like to answer once and for all.

With continued controversy over exactly what constitutes a catch, Goodell said Wednesday at his annual Super Bowl state-of-the-league news conference that he’d essentially like to start from scratch to provide a clearer idea of what is — and what is not — a completed pass.

“I would like to start back, instead of adding to the rule, subtracting the rule,” Goodell said. “Start over again and look at the rule fundamentally from the start. Because I think when you add or subtract things you can still lead to confusion. These rules are very complex; you have to look at what the unintended consequences are of making a change, which is what the competition committee, in my view, does so well and with so much thought.”

Goodell added that the league needs “to get this rule right, so everyone can appreciate it. Clearly, the catch/no catch has had a lot of discussion. I won’t tell you there won’t be controversy [in the future], but we need to get to a better place.”

The commissioner said he recently met for three hours with several former players, including Hall of Famers, and the group reviewed 150 plays to try and build a consensus on what a catch should be.

“There were a lot of people with different perspectives and a lot of disagreement in the room,” he said.

So the competition committee will dive into not only this rule, but perhaps refining the rulebook.

The catch rule controversy flared in a critical Steelers-Patriots game on Dec. 17. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw what appeared to be a touchdown pass to tight end Jesse James that would have put the Steelers ahead. But a replay review, which is done after every scoring play, determined that James had not “survived the ground” because he briefly lost possession after crossing the goal line. Current rules require that a receiver possess the ball through the entire catch, including after he hits the ground.

Goodell said the league would also look at replay reviews, which were up in 2017.

“I think we can look at that,” he said. “How do we make the game more attractive with less stoppages is one of the things we focus on. How do we make the game more attractive with less stoppages is one of the things we focus on. How do we use replay to ensure correcting obvious mistakes, but making sure it doesn’t interrupt the flow of the game.”

Goodell touched on several other areas:

  • Goodell declined to say whether the league will consider having players remain in the locker rooms during the playing of the national anthem. The NFL came under intense criticism when many players took a knee or sat during the anthem, and President Donald Trump was a frequent critic. Goodell said he has not spoken to the president since Trump first reprimanded players and the league in September for not standing during the anthem.
  • The league has hired an independent investigator to review claims of sexual and racial misconduct in the workplace against Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, who recently announced his intention to sell the team after reports of his inappropriate behavior surfaced in December. Former U.S. attorney Mary Jo White will lead the investigation. Goodell said he wants the Panthers to remain in Charlotte.
  • Goodell said he wants to see the league and its teams improve opportunities for diversity hiring, in particular by finding spots for minority coaches to become offensive and defensive coordinators so that there is a better pipeline for head coaching jobs.
  • Goodell announced that the Rams will play a home game in Mexico City against the Chiefs.
  • Asked about why Colin Kaepernick, who began to take a knee during the anthem during the 2016 season, has not been given another chance to play in the NFL, Goodell said it was an issue to be determined by individual teams, not the league. He said the NFL would not “get involved in that in any way.”
  • Goodell said he has been too busy to look closely at the expected relaunch of the XFL in early 2020. He added that the league continues to look at the option of starting its own spring league if it improves opportunities for players to make it to the NFL.

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