Get Ready To Hear A Lot About “Catch and Carry”

I’m just back from sitting in on the NFL Officiating Crew’s presentation on new rules and points of emphasis for 2008. Sadly, they were not dressed as they were at practice. The presentation would’ve been much livelier if they had been.

Coach Zorn and the officials at practice.

Coach Zorn and the officials at practice.

That said, it was still pretty interesting.

The presentation was held in the Redskins Park auditorium, the first time I’ve been in that room. Immediately upon seeing the rows of seats (with foldout desks), the speaker’s podium, and the movie screen, I was gripped with a high-school inclination to sit as far in the back and as near to the door as possible.

The high school feeling was intensified when the media was escorted into the room. The officials were already there, occupying the front right side. The media trooped in and sat on the front left, an unbroken line of empty seats keeping them separated like boys and girls at a middle school party. (The PR interns were sitting in the back left, which I suppose makes them the chaperones or something.)

Jeff Triplette introduced the officiating crew — and let me head off the obvious questions and say that, no, Ed Hochuli was not present — and then started a short movie covering the rules changes and points of emphasis, which I will attempt to summarize and paraphrase here.

The accompanying booklet.

The accompanying booklet.

  • Forceouts are no longer catches. Keep your feet in bounds or it’s incomplete… UNLESS the defensive player holds up and CARRIES the receiver out of bounds, which they’re referring to as a “catch and carry”. I expect hours of on-air debate as to what consitutes “holding up” and “carrying” every time this aspect of the rule is invoked.
  • No more five yard incidental facemask. This is the important one to remember for barstool arguments. Next time the guy next to you starts screaming for the incidental facemask flag, patronizingly remind him that that rule is no longer in effect.
  • One defensive player on the field at a time (and two helmets total) may have radio contact with coaches.
  • Field goals are now reviewable for anything except kicks that go directly above the upright posts. This was accompanied on the video by the most confusing diagram I have ever seen used to explain such a basic concept.
  • A missed or muffed snap with the quarterback under center is now a backwards pass, and therefore a live ball. So are muffed forward handoffs, although those still carry a five yard penalty.
  • Teams can elect to defer their decision on the coin toss.

Next up were the points of emphasis, which were largely what you’d expect, focusing on protecting vulnerable athletes (QBs, WRs in the process of making a catch, etc.) and respecting officials, players, and coaches. The Redskins made three appearances in the illustrative highlights in this section: Jason Campbell getting hit on his knee (cringe-inducing), two of our O-linemen cut-blocking (I was looking at the wrong part of the screen), and Laron Landry leveling someone on the Jets helmet to helmet (which I know was supposed to be cringe-inducing and wrong, but which was kind of impressive anyhow).

After that, Triplette entertained questions on some specifics (nothing noteworthy), the lights came up, and class was dismissed. Despite sitting right next to the door, I had managed to stay for the entire thing and even take copious notes, two facts of which I’m disproportionately proud. I was never good in lectures.


21 Responses

  1. Sounds like the NFL and the NCAA are getting on the same page with some of the rules. It’s a good thing!

  2. Do you know if the redskins intrasquad scrimmage will be on tv tomorrow?

  3. Question for you Matt about the Muffed forward handoff. I’m not understanding the 5 yard penalty. Could you explain that please?

  4. I can certainly try: a forward handoff — “when the ball is handed to a player in advance of a teammate from whose hand he takes or receives it” (Rule 3, Section 13, Article 1) — has always been a five yard penalty.

    What’s new is that prior to this year, that penalty was enacted even if the offensive team fumbled the illegal handoff and the defense recovered, which could on occasion work out in the offense’s favor (i.e., they lose five yards but keep possession).

    Does that help at all?

  5. The forward handoff still doesn’t completely make sense. But I think you’re talking about past the line of scrimmage, correct? Because behind the line it would be a “pass”, would it not?

  6. They showed an example of it — picture a shovel pass where the RB is too close, if you see what I’m saying.

    Essentially, the RB has run past the QB and past the line of scrimmage and the QB somehow manages to extend the ball (without having it knocked away by the linemen, but let’s just pretend) and hand it to the RB.

  7. I don’t get how thats a forward handoff though… If the QB is behind the line it’s legal for the ball to move forward through the air.

    Your example– Shovel Pass– Is it to the side?

    Could you draw a picture/diagram and post it if it isn’t too much trouble?

  8. Ok, I think I gotcha… I re-read your post….

    They are– lets say– at the LOS, and the ball extends across while still in the hands of the QB and then the RB grabs it? Right?

  9. @Eddie
    You got it.

    Also, from a few posts back, @bobbybob
    None of the scrimmage will be on live TV. TV should have portions of it up after the event, although there may be some sections that the coaches don’t want to hit the internet.

  10. Ok, thats cool… so with the 5 Yd Penalty still there, would there still be the breaks for the offense getting the ball back if it is muffed and the D recovers it?

  11. Ok so your not talking about a forward hand off to a running back. Your talking about if like you break the line of skrimmage and hand it off in front of you. Or if you recovered the ball on deffense and tried to hand off to the guy in front of you. It has to be lateral or behind you.

  12. Karl, immagine the QB on a sweep play (where he rolls to the side to hand the ball off) and he stumbles- hes not down unless hes touched- So he reaches out to still hand the ball off, but the ball crosses the LOS before the RB grabs it from him.

  13. Also, Matt… I really appreciated the picture of Sean’s locker… the day before I got curious and was trying to find one online and couldn’t do so.

    I think you are doing a great job… I like the mix of things. And you also update this rather quickly if something important happens.

    Keep up the good work.


    Tomorrow, no cameras at all will be allowed during any team activities that include formations, etc., INCLUDING THE SCRIMMAGE. Meaning that the only way to see it is to come down to the Park.

    Sorry about that, and about the earlier misinformation.

  15. Hey Matt Do you think you could try to get a few comments from Justin Tryon and Fred Smoot together. From what I hear Justin likes to talk also that should be very entertaining.

  16. What does it mean to “defer the decision on the coin toss?” I understand what the words mean, but I’m having trouble figuring out how this works. There’s a coin toss, and then they go back to the sidelines and talk it over? How long do they have to decide? What problem is this change supposed to fix? This is just strange.

  17. @Tom Servo
    Sorry — instead of selecting to kick or receive, you can elect to defer your choice to the second half, allowing the other team to choose first.

  18. Thanks for the clarification. I have to confess that I’m still not seeing what problem this change was supposed to solve. Was the previous rule just too easy to follow?

  19. Quick Question For everyone…

    If there is no more forceout rule, then does that mean that it will be almost impossible for wideouts like santana to catch an out route along the sideline?!

    If the ball is thrown slightly too high and a 5ft 9 5 ft 10 receiver has to leave the ground, then any smart corner or safety would come rocketing out and just clean level the receiver with their shoulder out of bounds…thats an incompletion!?

    It seems like thats unfair/ will lead to a lot less use of the sideline and more dangerous throws over the middle (definitely a defense-advantage rule change IMO)

    Anyone agree/disagree? Please comment!

  20. There seems to be some confusion about handoff versus pass and where the exchange (either handoff or pass) becomes illegal. A handoff is an exchange where the ball is being touched simultaneously by both players whereas a pass occurs when the ball leaves the passers hands before being touched by the receiver. A pass can be either forward or backward, as determined by its initial direction.

    To be legal, a forward pass must be released from behind the neutral zone (LOS). If dropped, it is an incomplete pass. Similarly, a forward handoff must be completed behind the neutral zone. If dropped, it is a fumble.

  21. Vinny,

    Its definitely a defensive advantage and I see that rule changing next year back to how it has been. In the interim though, it definitely puts an emphasis on great route running and great hands especially along the sidelines.

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