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There won't be a Calvin Johnson rule

Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson catches a

Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson catches a pass for a touchdown against the Patriots. (Nov. 25, 2010) Credit: AP

We interrupt this unending stream of NFL labor-related posts to bring you - drum roll, please - some football related information: 

Lions fans will be disappointed to know that the disputed play that nullified a touchdown by wide receiver Calvin Johnson is not expected to result in a rule change that would change the outcome of similar plays.

In the regular season opener against the Bears, Johnson caught what appeared to be a 25-yard touchdown pass from Shaun Hill. Johnson leaped up for the catch, fell to the ground, and then lost control of the ball when he put his hand down.

The play was initially ruled a touchdown, but was reversed on replay.

Despite many public calls to revise a rule that requires a player to maintain possession throughout the act of making the catch - including when he goes to the ground, the Competition Committee won't recommend to the owners at next weekend's meetings in New Orleans that the rule be amended. 

"That play will still be incomplete," said competition committee member John Mara, the Giants' president and co-owner.

The committee has taken great pains to analyze the play, including an exhaustive film study during last month's Scouting Combine and again at this week's meetings in Naples, Fla. But the committee wants to continue using the rule because it is more easily officiated than if it would be if the rule were changed.

"If you read the rule, it's not a catch," Mara said in an interview at the Combine. "The reason it’s not a catch is you’ve got to control the ball when you hit the ground. It makes it easier to officiate. It’s a bright line that you can draw. We’re going to talk about whether we can change the rule, but I’m not expecting that to happen. It’s just much easier to officiate right now."

Mara admits the league might take some criticism over not amending the rule.

"It doesn’t look good," he said. "You see the play and say, ‘Oh, that’s got to be a touchdown.’ Then you see it on replay and you look at the wording of the rule. He didn’t control the ball when he hit the ground. It’s a bright line."

According to the rule in question: "If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent), he must maintain control of the ball after he touches the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. If he loses control of the ball, and the ball touches the ground before he regains control, the pass is incomplete. If he regains control prior to the ball touching the ground, the pass is complete."

Mara suggests that players should always make sure to secure the ball through the entire play, even after hitting the ground.

"The players know that you’ve got to control the ball when you hit the ground," he said. "Showing the ball to the referee would be the safe thing to do." 

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