Even after the change, confusion remained. While the rule got more specific, it didn’t get any easier for the officials, who will be tasked with deciding within a split second if a receiver fits within the criteria listed above.
On Thursday, NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino provided an explanation for the updated language. In actuality, he might’ve made it more confusing.
Though the rulebook attempts to lay out what is and isn’t a catch with that paragraph above, Blandino told SiriusXM NFL Radio’s Ross Tucker and Brad Hopkins that it isn’t an “all-inclusive list.”
Boldin is arguably the best receiver still left in free agency, heading a group of unsigned receivers that also includes Roddy White and James Jones.
As Rapoport reported, Boldin views New Orleans as an attractive destination because of receivers coach John Morton, who coached Boldin with the 49ers. Of course, he also might want to join the Saints, who cut Marques Colston this offseason, because he’d be catching passes from future Hall of Famer Drew Brees.
“We just try to give some examples. It’s not an all-inclusive list, but it is something that officials will be looking for, when it goes to replay, we’ll be looking for and things that everybody else can use to gauge what the decision is going to be.”
In other words, common sense can sometimes override the rulebook. I don’t foresee that being an issue at any point this season (note the sarcasm).
There appears to be no end in sight to the confusion. Because as long as the NFL sticks with the current catch rule — “two feet, then time,” as Blandino put it — there’s never going to be a way to adequately define and consistently enforce the “time” requirement, especially if the common sense of an individual official is allowed to overrule what the actual rulebook says.
Last season, while playing in a porous 49ers offense Boldin caught 69 passes for 789 yards and four touchdowns. As long as he’s not the primary weapon of an offense, he still has plenty to offer. Plus, Boldin could also serve as a mentor for Cooks, 22, and Thomas, 23.
Boldin ranks 12th all-time in receptions with 1,009.
A week ago, the NFL officially updated the catch rule. While the league didn’t necessarily change the rule, it provided additional language to help clarify when in fact a receiver becomes a runner.
Via the rulebook for the 2016 season:
A player has the ball long enough to become a runner when, after his second foot is on the ground, he is capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent, tucking the ball away, turning up field, or taking additional steps.