1. Secures firm control with the hand(s) or arm(s) of a live ball in flight before the ball touches the ground, and
2. Touches the ground in bounds with any part of the body, and then
3. Maintains control of the ball long enough to enable that player to perform an act common to the game, i.e., long enough to pitch or hand the ball, advance it, avoid or ward off an opponent, etc., and
4. Satisfies paragraphs b, c, and d below.
b. If a player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass (with or without contact by an opponent) the player must maintain complete and continuous control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the field of play or in the end zone. This is also required for a player attempting to make a catch at the sideline and going to the ground out of bounds. If the player loses control of the ball which then touches the ground before they regain control, it is not a catch. If the player regains control inbounds prior to the ball touching the ground it is a catch.
c. If the player loses control of the ball while simultaneously touching the ground with any part of their body, or if there is doubt that the acts were simultaneous, it is not a catch. If a player has control of the ball, a slight movement of the ball, even if it touches the ground, will not be considered loss of possession; the player must lose control of the ball in order for there to be a loss of possession.
d. If the ball touches the ground after the player secures control and continues to maintain control, and the elements above are satisfied, it is a catch.
e. An interception is a catch of an opponent’s pass or fumble.
f. A catch by any kneeling or prone inbounds player is a completion or interception (Rules 7-3-6 and 7-3-7).
g. A player recovers a ball if they fulfill the criteria in paragraphs a, b, c, and d for catching a ball that is still alive after hitting the ground.
h. When in question, the catch, recovery or interception is not completed.
Approved Ruling 2-4-3 I. B1 attempts to catch a punt (no fair catch signal) that crosses the neutral zone, strikes his shoulder (a muff) and bounces into the air. The ball does not touch the ground. Airborne A1 receives the ball in flight and first returns to the ground out of bounds. RULING: Team B’s ball at the spot where the ball crossed the sideline. First and 10.
Approved Ruling 2-4-3 II. On third down, B1 blocks a Team A scrimmage kick that goes into the air and does not cross the neutral zone. The ball does not touch the ground. A1 jumps and grasps the ball in flight and first returns to the ground out of bounds. RULING: Team B’s ball at the spot where the ball crossed the sideline. First and 10 (Rule 6-3-7).
Approved Ruling 2-4-3 III. Airborne A3 receives a pass at Team A’s 40-yard line. While still airborne, he is contacted by B1 and comes to the ground out of bounds with the ball at Team A’s 37-yard line. RULING: Incomplete pass (Rule 7-3-7a).
Approved Ruling 2-4-3 IV. Receiver A88 is near the sideline, stretching to catch a legal forward pass. As A88 is going to the ground in the act of catching the pass, (a) A88 gains firm control of the ball with the toes down in bounds and falls out of bounds, maintaining firm control; (b) A88 gains firm control of the ball with toes down in bounds, bobbles the ball while airborne, regains firm control before landing out of bounds and maintains firm control when landing; (c) A88 gains firm control of the ball with toes down in bounds, falls out of bounds and loses firm control of the ball when contacting the ground. RULING: (a) Catch by A88. (b) Incomplete pass. (c) Incomplete pass.