NFL notebook: Catch rule altered, "targeting" rule added

NFL owners, meeting in Orlando, Fla., unanimously approved a simplified version of what constitutes a completion for the 2018 season.

Under the new wording instituted Tuesday, a catch will require control, two feet (or another body part) inbounds and a football move such as a third step or reaching/extending for the line to gain. Gone is the "going-to-the-ground" element of the previous rule.

Al Riveron, the NFL's senior vice president of officiating, said last week the league's competition committee would recommend simplifying the language of the catch rule and that the proposed changes would be presented this week at the league meeting. Riveron said the league examined footage of multiple prominent plays in recent years -- including Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James' overturned touchdown last season -- to help shape the new catch rule.

--NFL owners also passed a "targeting" rule aimed at taking head contact out of the game.

According to league spokesman Brian McCarthy, the new rule reads, "It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent. The player may be disqualified. Applies to any player anywhere on the field."

The circumstances in which such a foul would merit an ejection are still being fleshed out, according to competition committee chairman Rich McKay. McKay added that the primary motivation behind the rule is to eliminate the use of helmets "as a weapon," whether by linemen in the trenches or by ball carriers and tacklers.

--New York Giants owner John Mara is doing his best to stomp out trade rumors swirling around Odell Beckham Jr.

Mara told reporters on Tuesday at the NFL owner's meetings that if he had his druthers, the Giants would not trade away their star wide receiver. However, he isn't ruling out the possibility of a trade entirely.

"Do I want him to be traded? Absolutely not," Mara said. "I want him to be a Giant. I can't promise that's going to happen. We're not looking to get rid of him, OK?"

--After going 1-31 in two seasons as head coach in Cleveland, Hue Jackson believes the Browns can find a franchise quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft.

"I think the guy's in there. I really do," Jackson said in at the NFL coaches' breakfast in Orlando.

When asked about discussing each player's potential fit with the Browns, Jackson said, "I think we're very close. Yeah, I think we're close. We just haven't had the chance to be together. I gave the staff the week off. They're vacationing. We're here at the owners meetings and we'll get together here soon and put our heads together and see what's best."

--Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson's recovery from his season-ending anterior cruciate ligament tear a year ago is "ahead of schedule," coach Bill O'Brien said at the league's meetings.

"Deshaun's ahead of schedule, but there's still a lot of work," O'Brien told reporters. "He has a great idea how he feels and how his knee is. He knows the stages he needs to get back on the field. ...

"He hurt the other knee in college, so he has a real good idea about how to go about the rehab. He knows the different stages, the different goals he has to meet along the way. I believe that he feels real good about where he is right now."

--Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden had thoughts to share at the coaches' breakfast at the NFL owners meetings, saying he would like to get rid of instant replay and voicing his surprise that Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned by an NFL team.

"I'd like to eliminate instant replay, honestly," Gruden said when asked what he would change now that he is returning to coaching. "That would be my No. 1 thing. Let the officials call the game. That's just my opinion. I try not to play that game of 'wish list,' you know what I mean?"

Gruden, returning to the Raiders after nine years in the broadcast booth with ESPN, also indicated that he expects Kaepernick to be on an NFL team some time in the near future, saying, "I am surprised he's not in camp with somebody. He probably will be soon."

--While the New York Jets didn't hesitate to sign Teddy Bridgewater to a one-year deal at the start of free agency, his former team had concerns with the quarterback's medical evaluation.

"The reports I'd get back from the medical people weren't as positive as I was about it," Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer told reporters at the NFL owner's meetings. "That's kind of how it came down is that his knee wasn't as ... he still has some recovery to do. When I watched him in practice, he moved well, I didn't see limitations, but from what I told, there was some.

"When I saw him in practice, I thought he could handle it. I never saw him being hampered with that, but other people are talking to me and had different opinions, I guess."

--A suspect in the burglary of New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski's house during the week leading up to Super Bowl LII turned himself in to police.

Eric Tyrrell, 28, was arrested on a warrant and is currently being held on $10,000 bail, according to the Foxborough (Mass.) Police Department. Tyrrell will be arraigned at Wrentham (Mass.) District Court on Wednesday morning.

Gronkowski reported the robbery of his Foxborough home to police on Feb. 5 after the Patriots were defeated by the Philadelphia Eagles 41-33 in the Super Bowl a day earlier.

--If Johnny Manziel's NFL comeback attempt doesn't pan out as he hopes, he intends to fall back on the Canadian Football League.

Manziel threw in front of scouts and coaches at Texas A&M's pro day, telling reporters afterward that he hopes an NFL team reaches out, but he isn't solely focused on the possibility.

"I've blocked it off," Manziel said, via ESPN. "I can't do anything, I can't stress about it, all I can do is make sure I'm where I need to be. ... All I can do is block it off. If something (with the NFL) pops up, it pops up. And if not, if I don't get the opportunity to go back, I'm going to go play in the CFL, and things are going to be fine. One way or another, one day down the line, I'll get back to exactly where I want to be, because I'm not going to stop until I do."

--Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin isn't a fan of touchdown celebrations despite his team showcasing some of the most notable end-zone shenanigans in the league last season.

"It's for the entertainment of the fans, so I respect it on that level, but personally I don't like it," Tomlin said from the NFL owners meetings, via ESPN. "I just think it takes away from the game. It's not a good look for young people. Young people aren't allowed to celebrate in that way (during games), so why should we?"

Tomlin said he doesn't watch when his players celebrate in the end zone. Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell and JuJu Smith-Schuster were often at the forefront of the planned celebrations, which became possible when the NFL relaxed its rules on excessive celebrating last year.

--Just two years in as the Tennessee Titans' general manager, Jon Robinson received an extension this offseason that runs through 2022.

Controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk told that she signed Robinson to an extension within the last month, putting him on the same schedule as newly hired head coach Mike Vrabel, who has a five-year contract.

Robinson's contract was set to run through the 2019 draft, but he and Vrabel are now both secured through 2022. The 42-year-old Robinson has deep familiarity with Vrabel, a former NFL linebacker, from their time together with the New England Patriots when Vrabel was a player and Robinson a rising executive.

--Blaine Gabbert will replace Matt Cassel as the No. 2 quarterback for the Titans.

Gabbert, joining his fourth NFL team, spent last season with the Arizona Cardinals after previously playing for the San Francisco 49ers and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Gabbert agreed to terms with the Titans after visiting the team facility last week. Terms of the agreement were not immediately available.

--The Seattle Seahawks cut troubled backup quarterback Trevone Boykin on Tuesday shortly after reports of an alleged domestic-violence attack on his girlfriend began circulating.

Boykin, 24, is under investigation for aggravated assault resulting in serious bodily injury, police in Mansfield, Texas, told Dallas-Fort Worth television station WFAA.

Shabrika Bailey detailed last week's incident to WFAA on Monday night, saying Boykin beat up and left her with a broken jaw wired shut. Bailey said the incident happened on March 20 at her home in Mansfield, Texas. She said she refused to show Boykin a text message on her phone and that led to the attack.

--The Raiders are waiving tight end Clive Walford, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, who adds that the former third-round pick is "expected to find a new home quickly."

Walford, 26, will be subject to waivers. He has one year remaining on his rookie contract. Any team that claims him would owe him $1.9 million in base salary for 2018.

One of the top-rated tight ends in a weak class, Walford was the second tight end selected in the 2015 draft, going 68th overall out of Miami (Fla.). He caught 61 passes for 688 yards and six touchdowns through his first two seasons before sinking to third on the depth chart in 2017, when he caught just nine passes for 81 yards.

--Dan Patrick's days as the studio host for NBC's "Football Night in America" are over.

Patrick told the New York Post that he decided not to renew his contract with NBC to host the pregame show leading into the network's "Sunday Night Football" broadcast.

"I didn't want to do it and not love doing it," the 61-year-old Patrick told the newspaper, adding that he turned down a new five-year deal from NBC in December.

--Field Level Media