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Catch rule is 'tough' but 'clearly stated,' says Patriots' Bill Belichick

You’d never get Bill Belichick to say whether he agrees or disagrees with the NFL’s end-zone catch rule, the now-infamous rule that saw a Pittsburgh Steelers touchdown taken off the board on Sunday evening.

When it comes to those topics, the New England Patriots coach almost always punts, saying those on the league’s Competition Committee should be asked.

On a Tuesday conference call, Belichick did just that initially, saying whether he likes the rule or not is “really a conversation for people like Al [Riveron, the NFL vice president of officiating] and so forth.”

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the first half of Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. (AP)

But Belichick, like Eli Manning expressed in an interview on Monday, doesn’t seem to think there’s a lot of gray area in the rule, even if it might be a little rigid.

“There’s always been a philosophy in the league, and it’s gone back several decades, of philosophically whether you want to have a catch and a fumble or an incomplete pass, and the philosophy has always been incomplete pass,” Belichick said. “Otherwise, you’d have a million catches and fumbles. I agree with that. The catch in the end zone is very clearly stated, so you’ve got to complete a catch. It’s pretty clear.

“Whether there’s a better way to do that, I don’t know. It’s a tough rule. It’s a bang-bang play. It could go either way, so I think you have to have a philosophy and whatever philosophy you have then there will be people on the other side with a different philosophy and then it really gets back into that whole discussion. I think if you’ve got a better way to do it, suggest it and let somebody take a look at it and we’ll talk about it. I don’t know.”

In his own meeting with media on Tuesday, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who is a member of the Competition Committee, said “all of this needs to be revisited” when asked about the rule that negated James’ potential game-winner and that the committee has its work cut out for it this offseason.

Belichick acknowledged that Patriots players are coached on stretching the ball over the goal line and things like ball security; New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels elaborated a bit on the same topic, saying there’s a time and place for everything.

“Awareness, I think, is the most important thing because there’s a time and a place where you may have to try to do that, and then there’s a time and a place where it’s not really worth the risk, if you will,” McDaniels said. “So, whether that’s an early down play, a two-point conversion, a fourth-and-goal, all those scenarios are different, and we’re trying to make our players aware of those so that they have that information, and hopefully they can process the situation that they’re in in the moment and then do the right thing with the ball and make sure that they always protect the team and do what’s best for us.”

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