What is a catch?....and what's not

What is a catch?

One of the most controversial rules in the NFL is what is a catch. A catch requires three main components, the catch, the feet, and the ball possession. In order for a receiver to have completed a catch at the NFL level, you need to have both feet in bounds, have full control of the ball, and have time to be established as a runner. A receiver should also have full control of the ball when going to the ground in or out of bounds until the play is over.

*Not a catch because the ground, as a receiver, does not cause a fumble but an incompletion (no catch)

What is ‘toe-tapping’ in the end zone?

When in the end zone a receiver could use his toes as a way of keeping himself from being in bounds allowing them to receive a touchdown. In the end zone, there are completely different rules but the ground rule still applies. If the receiver has at least two feet or other parts of his body in the end zone and has crossed the goal line while having possession of the ball then that play is considered a touchdown. So a receiver while in the end zone has his toes in bounds (toe tapping) and control of the ball he has completed a touchdown. Toe-tapping can also be completed while not in the end zone but instead near the sidelines which can also be considered a completed pass/gain of yards, but not a touchdown.


Why does a receiver have to be considered a runner?

A receiver needs to be a runner due to changes to the rules in 2015. The NFL wanted to clear up the rule of having your feet down so they created the receiver needs to be a runner. It states that in order for a catch to be completed the receiver needs both feet on the ground. The receiver has to have both feet down on the ground while in bounds and on the ground long enough to be considered a runner. The receiver also must have full control of the ball when going to the ground and while on it until the play is over. This rule, however, causes some confusion when it comes to a receiver having both feet on the ground long enough to be considered a runner, but then when going to the ground losing control but then gain it back again. In some instances some catches are called completed then others are not

“A player is considered to be going to the ground if he does not remain upright long enough to demonstrate that he is clearly a runner.”

What is having possession?

The most important element of catching for a receiver has possession of the ball. Having possession or control of the ball is what makes or breaks a catch. If a receiver doesn’t allow the ball to move around in his hands then he is considered to have possession of the ball. However, if the ball moves in his hands while not in contact with the ground but then secures the ball back into a state of possession before being down my contact then the pass is completed. However if the receiver loses possession of the ball and does not regain it, then the ball hits the ground then the pass in incomplete. This allows for anyone to catch the ball if it never touches the ground and juggled around until someone catches it.