New England Patriots

New England Patriots

(Photo by Alex Burstow/Getty Images)

In response to last year’s NFC Championship Game, in which the San Francisco 49ers suffered multiple quarterback injuries limiting them against the Philadelphia Eagles, the NFL instituted a new rule this offseason. Known informally as the ‘Brock Purdy Rule,’ in short it allows teams to dress an additional ’emergency’ quarterback on gamedays who doesn’t count against the active roster.

The rule was first unveiled in May. Here’s a look at the original wording…

“One hour and 30 minutes prior to kickoff, each club is required to establish its Active List for the game by notifying the Referee of the players on its Inactive List for that game. 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. A club is not eligible to use these procedures if it carries three quarterbacks on its game day Active List [47- or 48-players in 2023].”

That original outline led to some confusion about the details of the rule. There were also ideas quickly floated about how teams could ‘game’ the rule to essentially add another player to their gameday roster. So on the Monday before the start of the regular season, the league released a ‘Q&A’ about the finer points of the rule, clarifying some of the issues. Here’s a look at what that included…

  • What is an Emergency Third Quarterback?

    A club may designate a bona fide quarterback as an Inactive/Emergency Third Quarterback for a regular-season or postseason game. The player must be listed on the Gameday Administration Report that is submitted prior to or at the 90-minute meeting, subject to the following:‚Äč

    The Emergency Third Quarterback must be on the club’s 53-player roster; the player cannot be an elevated Practice Squad player. The club’s starting quarterback (QB1) and its backup quarterback (QB2) must also be on the club’s 53-player roster.
    A club must have two bona fide quarterbacks on its 47/48-player gameday active list to designate an Emergency Third Quarterback.
    A club cannot designate an Emergency Third Quarterback if it has three or more bona fide quarterbacks on its 47/48-player gameday active list.

  • When is an Emergency Third Quarterback permitted to enter a game?

    An Emergency Third Quarterback is permitted to enter a game only if the club’s two active quarterbacks are unable to play either by disqualification or injury, including for example, if QB1 is unable to play and QB2 is being evaluated for an injury.

  • After an Emergency Third Quarterback enters a game, are QB1 or QB2 permitted to return to that game?

    Yes. If either QB1 or QB2 are evaluated for injury and cleared to return, either may re-enter the game.

  • Are teams allowed to list players who play other positions as an Emergency Third Quarterback?

    No. Players who play positions other than quarterback are prohibited from being listed as an Emergency Third Quarterback. For example, a tight end who wears jersey No. 80 is not eligible to be designated as an Emergency Third Quarterback under this rule; however, such tight end is permitted to play quarterback in a game if listed on the gameday 47/48-player active list (unless the Emergency Third quarterback is in the game).

  • Before the game, are Emergency Third Quarterbacks permitted to participate in warmups?

    Yes. A designated Emergency Third Quarterback may participate with the club’s active players during the official team warm-up period.

  • Can the Emergency Third Quarterback enter a game after coaches remove QB1 or QB2 for poor play (coach’s decision)?

    No. The Emergency Third Quarterback cannot enter the game due to the club benching QB1 or QB2.

  • What if QB2 is unavailable for other reasons, such as an equipment issue?

    The Emergency Third Quarterback cannot enter the game if QB1 is unavailable and QB2 has an equipment issue that requires him to come out of the game. If such a situation occurs, the club can use another player on the active list at quarterback or can take a timeout.

  • Are clubs allowed to use this new rule to develop quarterbacks?

    No. The Emergency Third Quarterback rule is not intended to be a developmental tool to provide a player game experience.

  • What are the procedures when a club brings an Emergency Third Quarterback into a game?

    To enter the game, the Emergency Third Quarterback must report to the referee; this is not required after every play, only when there is a situation that requires the Emergency Third Quarterback to enter or re-enter the game. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty will be assessed if the Emergency Third Quarterback does not properly report to the referee upon entering the game. The referee will confirm with the head coach that QB1 and QB2 are currently unable to participate, but it is not the responsibility of the referee to determine the legitimacy of the injury or medical examination. The referee or a member of the officiating crew will notify the opposing head coach that the Emergency Third Quarterback has entered the game and the referee will make a public announcement to that effect.

  • Are clubs allowed to play an Emergency Third Quarterback in non-traditional fashion (i.e., Wildcat formation)?

    No. An Emergency Third Quarterback who enters a game must line up under center or in shotgun and must take the snap. No other player may take a snap if the Emergency Third Quarterback is in the game. An Emergency Third Quarterback is permitted to quick kick, but is not permitted to line up as the punter or play on special teams.

  • What is the penalty for violations of these procedures?

    An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty will be assessed if the club violates any aspects of the above procedures.

  • Does the Emergency Third Quarterback have a radio in his helmet?

    Each club may designate three offensive players to use Coach-to-Player (C2P) communication devices. It is the club’s choice as to whether it designates its Emergency Third Quarterback as one of its three C2P designees. If a club elects to not list its Emergency Third Quarterback as one of its three offensive C2P designees and the Emergency Third Quarterback is required to enter the game, the club must communicate play calls using other methods (i.e., the quarterback going to the sideline, hand signals, substitutions, etc.).

  • What are the procedures for either QB1 or QB2 returning to the game after a club uses its Emergency Third Quarterback?

    If either QB1 or QB2 is cleared to return to play by the medical staff, such player must re-enter the game by reporting to the referee. At such time, the Emergency Third Quarterback must be removed from the game and is not permitted to continue to play quarterback or any other position. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty will be assessed if QB1 or QB2 does not properly report to the referee upon re-entering the game. The referee or a member of the officiating crew will notify the opposing head coach that QB1 or QB2 has re-entered the game and the Emergency Third Quarterback has exited the game. The referee will make a public announcement that QB1 or QB2 has returned to the game and the Emergency Third Quarterback has exited the game.

  • If either QB1 or QB2 re-enters but later can’t continue due to disqualification or injury, is the Emergency Third Quarterback allowed to re-enter a game?

    Yes. The Emergency Third Quarterback remains eligible to return to the game if another Emergency Third Quarterback situation arises.

  • What is the definition of a bona fide quarterback?

    For the purposes of the Emergency Third Quarterback rule, a bona fide quarterback is defined as a player who wears a jersey number authorized for a quarterback and (a) is an established quarterback (e.g., someone who has customarily played the position in past professional or college seasons); or (b) is a player who takes regular-season snaps only at quarterback during at least three consecutive weeks of practice, including any week the player would be listed as an Emergency Third Quarterback.

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