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NFL adopts Detroit Lions’ rule proposal for 3rd emergency quarterback

The Detroit Lions’ rule proposal for an emergency third quarterback designation has passed. Here’s an explanation for what it means.

New York Jets v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The NFL announced today from the spring meetings that the Detroit Lions’ proposal for a new rule has been adopted. After tabling the discussion during the owners meetings in March, the league has adopted a new rule that will allow teams to designate a third emergency quarterback without making that player part of the gameday active list.

Here’s exactly how the new rule is written:

Each club may also designate one emergency third quarterback from its 53-player Active/Inactive List (i.e., elevated players are not eligible for designation) who will be eligible to be activated during the game, if the club’s first two quarterbacks on its game day Active List are not able to participate in the game due to injury or disqualification (activation cannot be a result of a head coach’s in-game decision to remove a player from the game due to performance or conduct). If either of the injured quarterbacks is cleared by the medical staff to return to play, the emergency third quarterback must be removed from the game and is not permitted to continue to play quarterback or any other position, but is eligible to return to the game to play quarterback if another emergency third quarterback situation arises.

To put simply, any team can carry an emergency third quarterback that won’t count against the active gameday roster. However, that player:

  • Must be signed to the 53-man roster
  • Cannot be a practice squad player, nor a gameday elevation from the practice squad

Teams can only use this emergency quarterback if the first two quarterbacks are no longer eligible to play in the game due to injury or suspension. In other words, you cannot bench your quarterbacks due to poor play in order to get to your third emergency quarterback.

While the Lions were the team who proposed this rule, it may have been accepted after the San Francisco 49ers found themselves in a precarious situation during the NFC Championship game. The 49ers were without a healthy rostered quarterback after Brock Purdy suffered an elbow injury and backup Josh Johnson suffered a concussion shortly thereafter. The 49ers put Purdy back into the game, but he was so limited that he didn’t throw the ball for the rest of the game. Jimmy Garoppolo was on the team’s 53-man roster, but was inactive for that game. It’s unclear if he would’ve been healthy enough to play, but under the new rule, Garoppolo would have been eligible to enter the game.

It will be interesting to see how this new rule impacts how teams build rosters. Many only carry two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, but with this new emergency quarterback insurance, they have more incentive to keep a third.

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