By Colin Dunlap

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PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Guys get hurt. That’s going to happen.

Head injuries. Really bad ones, even — yeah, that’s the known brutality and viciousness of the NFL. All that rough stuff is an assumed risk. If you don’t like it, don’t play.

Off the field? Sure, some of the players will be knuckleheads. It is bound to happen. There have been knuckleheads as long as there have been men. It seems like some men and poor decisions go together as if it is predisposed. The NFL doesn’t have a huge image problem; the NFL has a couple-of-knuckleheads-doing-dumb-stuff problem. But, all vocations and companies probably do.

I highlight those two things because, as the National Football League is currently structured, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot that can be done about those things — injuries and the occasional poor behavior is bound to happen in a league organized as such.

Know what might be the biggest problem for the NFL to tackle this offseason? One of the most fundamental questions in the game: What is a catch? Wow, it seems so primary and simple to identify, but the NFL not being able to categorize what exactly a catch is has become the main issue that needs to be fixed.

Perhaps Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, recently speaking to the Baltimore Sun, said it best:

“The whole thing is stupid,” he told the newspaper.“Start over. It’s just ridiculous. … How can you catch the ball, get both feet down, turn toward the end zone and start diving for it, and they say it’s not a football move. It’s stupid.”

Bisciotti was alluding to the infamous Jesse James play in the Steelers/Patriots regular-season game. He was also, seemingly, speaking for a whole football-watching nation.

Man, this catch rule has made strange bedfellows, as the Ravens owner was actually taking up for the Pittsburgh Steelers — or maybe more to the point, he was just championing rationality.

It feels like the intricacies and inner-minutia of a primal move in football has overridden logic when it comes to what a catch is. We watch replay over and over and over again, do it at a speed slowed down to a fraction of a second, that we get lost in the spirit of the game and play.

Quite simply, the NFL catch rule has become a Zapruder-esque game of “gotcha” rather than something based in logic and reason. To put it bluntly, the vast majority of us have played a game of football — whether it was at an organized, high level or just in the backyard — and we know what a catch is when we see it. The fundamental question, and the only fundamental question, is did the player hold onto the ball? None of this “survive the ground” or “football move” nonsense needs to be infused as it just muddies the easy in this case.

So the NFL heads into the offseason now and I’m sure they have a bunch on their plate. I’m quite certain they have some long and involved, bullet-pointed list of things that they could tinker with or introduce that might help the quality of their game.

For me, I think the NFL is pretty darn close to perfect. Let’s just finally, once and for all, figure out what a catch is and we might be there. It can’t be that hard.  ​

 

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