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DALLAS (105.3 THE FAN) – Cowboys fans are probably hanging onto the issue the way they believe Dez Bryant held onto that football. NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino understands, sympathizes, and has a reason to “hang onto’’ the “Dez Caught It’’ controversy as well.

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“It’s a great teaching moment just when you look at that play and the mechanics of the covering official and what you have to do,” said Blandino, in DFW recently and speaking to the media at the NFL’s annual officiating clinic about the fourth-and-2 fourth quarter play, a controversial non-catch in January’s divisional playoffs at Green Bay.

As Cowboys fans painfully recall, the ruling on the field was a completed catch, and one that figured to sway the game Dallas’ way … and help Dallas get a trip to the NFC title game, one win short of a Super Bowl. But Packers head coach Mike McCarthy challenged the play, sending referee Gene Steratore under the hood to take a look at the replay … with Blandino in his ear via the NFL’s instant-replay control room in New York.

“Catch,” Dez told me later, as we progressed down the corridor near the locker room inside of Lambeau Field, reenactinghis leap at the 5-yard line of a deep Tony Romo lob.

“Then one (step),’’ he said.

“Two,’’ he added with another stride. Then another. “Three.’’

The officials, and the NFL, didn’t see it that way. And they still don’t.

Said Blandino: “The teaching moment on that play on the field for the covering official is to watch the whole process, to follow the receiver to the ground and make sure that he maintains that control versus going to the spot and not watching the rest. And I think that’s the teaching moment that we have with our game officials.”

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Listen to Ben & Skin’s interview with Dean Blandino

Cowboys Nation can contend that the ball never touched the ground, that Dez may have even crossed the goalline in possession, but maybe most of all that Dez “out-athleted’’ the existing rule — that is, he jumped, turned and took three steps in a way that causes the rule to think he was “out of control’’ when he really wasn’t.

“If you’re falling to the ground to make the catch, then you have to maintain control when you land,” Blandino said. “And if you reach or do anything with the football, that’s not going to trump that requirement to maintain that control.”

Blandino recognizes that all of this makes him something less than a hero in DFW.

“I get some Cowboys fans, especially here in Dallas … you do get some people that recognize you,’’ he said. “And I think I wasn’t very popular at the time. But I think people start to understand what the rule is, and they may not agree with it, but I think they understand why the rule was in place.”

Maybe there is understanding. More likely, there is reluctant acceptance … and with training camp now just a week away, Cowboys Nation excitement over the next Romo-to-Bryant connection … and the next … and the next.

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