Chicago Sun-Times

It's official (almost): No Calvin Johnson rule

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What officials ruled was not a touchdown in the Bears' 2010 season-opening victory against the Detroit Lions won't be a touchdown in 2011, either.

"Would Calvin Johnson's be a catch under 2011 rules? Our answer would be no," competition committee chairman Rich McKay said during a Wednesday conference call.

Player safety was the focus of the NFL's competition committee meetings in Naples, Fla., according to McKay and NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson.

The competition committee will make several proposals at next week's owners' meetings in New Orleans, including possible suspensions for hits on defenseless players, unnecessary hits to the head and neck area and illegal helmet hits.

The league cracked down on such hits last year, fining players more than ever before, but there were no suspensions.

Another proposal involves moving the kickoff line from the 35 to the 30-yard line, moving touchbacks from the 20 to the 25 and eliminating all forms of wedge blocking on kickoffs.

Those recommendations will be made in an effort to lower what McKay said is a high injury rate on kickoffs.

The competition committee will also recommend that all scoring plays be reviewable by replay officials, similar to rules currently in place during the final two minutes of each half and overtime.

Eliminating the possibility of a third coach's challenge, which McKay said is rarely used, will also be proposed.

"We understand that we need to continue in terms of disciplining to discourage repeat offenders and flagrant violators and hold not just players but coaches and clubs accountable for playing to and coaching to the rules," Anderson said of possible suspensions for illegal hits. "There will be strong support in the 2011 season for making sure that players understand that, when warranted, suspensions will be an effective discipline for us. We don't want to go there, but if we must we're prepared to do that because these rules are meant to protect everybody on the field."

Detroit's Calvin Johnson made what appeared to be a game-winning touchdown reception late in the Bears' season opener but it was later ruled incomplete because the ball touched the ground while still in his hand as he attempted to leap up and celebrate.

The committee is recommending that the rule resulting in the controversial play be clarified but not changed.

"We confirmed a rule that has been there for more than 70 years which basically says there are three elements to a catch," said McKay, who is also the Atlanta Falcons president. "Secure the ball in your hands; maintain control when have you two feet down or any body part other than the hands (down). We will write it into the rules that you must control the ball long enough after 'A' and 'B' (to) enable you to perform any act common to the game. That doesn't mean you have to perform the act, but must have the ability to."

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This page contains a single entry by Neil Hayes published on March 16, 2011 3:41 PM.

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