I guess whenever the referees decide it is,...or not. One thing for sure is that this will be a huge topic in the off season when the owners and other front office personnel meet to discuss rules in the league's Competition Committee. So many times this season there have been calls on the field either confirmed or overturned when it appears that the play clearly seemed to be either a fumble or no fumble, depending on the specific play under discussion.
The calls have both helped and hurt the Baltimore Ravens this season, including one in yesterday's 24-10 win over the Cleveland Browns. A pass across the middle to Browns receiver Jordan Norwood appeared to be caught and after he took what seemed like three steps, he lost the ball while being tackled by Ravens CB Danny Gorrer, which safety Ed Reed scooped up for a turnover.
However, once the referee returned from under the hood of the Replay Booth, he overturned the on-the-field call, returning the ball to the Browns, not that it really mattered in the outcome of the game. The call surprised most Ravens fans, as well as head coach John Harbaugh. A story on BaltimoreRavens.com details the play and the official rule.
The referees' interpretation of the rule helped the Ravens hold off the Cincinnati Bengals two weeks ago when an apparent TD catch by Bengals TE Jermaine Gresham was overturned when it was determined through the replay that he did not make a complete catch and "football-move" that would have had the TD stand as originally called. The Bengals were forced to kick a FG and ended u on the losing end of the 31-24 Ravens victory.
Harbaugh was asked about it in Monday's Press Conference by a member of the media and he said it appeared the player took a number of steps as well. Whatever the ruling in these games as well as the rest of the season and through the playoffs and Super Bowl, one would hope this controversy is settled in the off season and does not prove to be the difference between a team winning or losing along the way, especially when we get into the post season