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Monday January 30 2023
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3rd and 10 with NFL Official Joe Larrew

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Joe Larrew is an NFL side judge entering his 15th year in the league. The St. Louis native works on Ed Hochuli's crew and met with the Pittsburgh media at training camp last month to answer questions regarding rule changes in the NFL this year.

Q: Was there any discussion in the offseason regarding deception in the sliding rule stemming from Peyton Manning’s play in the playoffs last year?
A: I don’t know. That all takes place within the competition committee. I have gone a couple of times over the years, but I’m not aware of whether they talked about that or not. I know the play, I was at that game, it was Pittsburgh last year against Denver.

Q: Was that play a miss by the officiating crew?
A: I was working the championship game. I was there as an alternate, so I saw and worked next to Coach Tomlin, and that was the question. “What happened on the play?” But I’m not aware that it was considered a mistake in officiating, because there’s really no rule that covered that, and I don’t think there is now. I think that he went down, he got up, and he was not down by contact. The key was that he had not given himself up as such that the play was over. 

Q: Have there been any adjustments to the catch rule?
A: No. There haven’t. It seems like the last three years we’ve had changes in the wording, and in how they explain it. From our standpoint, there really isn’t a replay. I think what they’ve done in the last year is a better job talking about what it takes, talking about control, and having two feet down. Now, they talk in terms of the time element. I think that’s going to be helpful in terms of most people understanding whether or not it’s a catch. We have a situation that we often times call “bang-bang,” which basically means that everything happens at one time and the ball comes out, and that has always been incomplete from our standpoint, and pretty much so in replay. I think now, when they’re talking about it, they’re going to say that if you meet the first two requirements, there’s still an element of time. It’s not established or finite, but there needs to be a matter of time where (the ball carrier) has become a runner, and you’re now on the page that the catch is over. It’s very important to distinguish that situation with respect to any time the receiver is going to the ground. If he’s going to the ground, the catch is never over until he’s on the ground, he keeps the ball, and he shows it to us, or whenever the play is definitely over. That’s different than a receiver on his feet. 

Q: Do you feel comfortable that you have a working definition (of a catch)?
A: I don’t think we have a problem with it. And I think that what they would like for us to do is follow the basic philosophy. If it’s challenged, and it goes upstairs, and they do whatever they can do up there, it may change the outcome. But that’s where they want us to be.

Q: Is there a finite number of seconds that possession must be had in order to judge a play as a catch?
A: They don’t say “two seconds,” or “one second.” They talk about things you can do in terms of actions such as reaching the ball out, and making an effort through player actions (to emphasize a catch), but the bottom line is that he has to have the ball long enough for us to say that he’s a runner. I think that’s the best way to describe it. The point being that now, if the ball comes out, it’s a fumble. And frankly, the final philosophy has always been that they don’t want cheap fumbles or cheap turnovers. 

Q: How is time a factor in determining a catch?
A: Judgment. It’s pure judgment. Again, replay can come in and perhaps change (the outcome), but as far as we’re concerned, we want to be able to say that everything happened, and the receiver had the ball long enough to become a runner.

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