The question seemed so simple.
*What is a catch? *
All Mike Zimmer could answer was, "Don't ask me."
That particular question was posed to the Vikings head coach last December in the week following Minnesota's loss at Carolina.
Just days, before Adam Thielen was initially ruled to have caught a 4-yard touchdown before halftime to put the Vikings up 16-14 with an extra point pending. Instead, the Vikings faced a fourth-and-goal with just nine seconds remaining and settled for a field goal.
After video review, however, officials saw the ball move so slightly as Thielen was going to the ground.
In actuality, Thielen's left foot, left knee and left elbow and forearm all hit the ground in the end zone paint before the ball wiggled. None of that mattered, nor did the fact that his yellow gloves quickly re-secured it, because of the way the rule was written.
"If you're going to the ground the ball cannot move. Period," Zimmer said in answering a follow-up question. "I don't want to get into it, but I mean, I kind of know what a catch is. I've been doing it for a long time, and if the ball moves this much (puts two fingers close together) it's not a catch, and [Thielen] caught it."
Pretty much every fan base — some more than others — have experienced a similar sting.
The NFL's Competition Committee heard the acrimony and decided to present a rule-change proposal to remove the full-possession-while going-to-the-ground component in the definition of a catch.
The proposal was unanimously approved on Tuesday by Owners of all NFL teams.
Now, it will be:
- Control of the ball
- Two feet down or another body part
- A football move such as: a third step; reaching/extending for the line to gain; or the ability to perform such an act
Zimmer was asked about the new rule on Tuesday and said, "I think it will be better."
"I think there will still be some, 'Is it or isn't it?' I think it will clarify quite a bit. The one I have a hard time with … Adam Thielen catches one in the end zone against Carolina, and it probably moves that much and they call it incomplete. I don't think that's going to happen anymore. From the clips they showed us, I think it will be more clear."
The revision to the catch rule was one of 10 rule-change proposals. Approval requires 75 percent of teams (24 of 32) to vote for a change. Proposals also can be rejected, tabled until a later meeting or withdrawn.
No change to pass interference
NFL.com's Kevin Patra cited a report by NFL Network's Judy Battista that the New York Jets withdrew a proposal to change the penalty for defensive pass interference from a spot-of-the foul penalty to 15 yards "unless the foul is determined to be intentional and egregious by the officiating crew."
The Vikings were hurt and helped by spot-of-the-foul assessments in 2017.
According to Pro Football Reference, there were 266 instances* *of accepted pass interference penalties with an average mark-off of 18.09 yards last season.
Touchback rule becomes permanent
Ownership approved a proposal to make permanent the spotting of a football at the 25-yard line of the return team after a touchback on kickoffs. All other touchbacks (punt return, interception or fumble recovery downed in the end zone) will be spotted at the 20.
The spotting was changed from the 20 to the 25 for the 2016 season on a trial basis and renewed again for 2017.
Ownership also on Tuesday approved a rule change that will allow "a designated member of the officiating department to instruct on-field game officials to disqualify a player for a flagrant non-football act when a foul for that act is called on the field."
Zimmer was asked about that rule change and said, "I think it's fine. If guys are doing things that they shouldn't be doing on the field, I don't have any problem with it."
"I mean, we're all trying to, we want to make this game great for the fans and for all the people watching it, and there's a lot of things we don't need to have in this game," Zimmer added. "And some of the fights and some of that stuff … we want to make it safe. It's a great game, and we need to continue to try to make it as safe as possible."