NFL Spring League Meeting Notebook: Thursday Night Flex, No Washington Commanders Sale, and Emergency Quarterbacks

The NFL spring meetings conclude unfinished business from the Annual Owner's Meeting in March. We go over the biggest changes in our notebook.

The NFL takes care of any remaining business from their March Annual Owner’s Meetings in their Spring League Meeting, this year held on May 22 in Minneapolis. A number of leaguewide changes have already been implemented through the first day of meetings which cover where fans watch NFL games, when teams play those games, where the draft is occurring, who can be on the active gameday roster, and how special teams play out.

Let’s take a look at the major decisions the NFL made through the first day of the NFL spring meetings.

Thursday Night Football Getting Flexed

The NFL voted to allow itself the ability to move games from Sunday afternoon to Thursday night to boost ratings for the second year of Amazon Prime’s control of the Thursday Night Football product. We went over the changes in detail, the eligibility criteria, and which games are eligible to be flexed.

This has an impact on teams, players, fans, and broadcast partners, so it turned out to be a monumental decision on the NFL’s part that should increase marketability for their marquee products in future negotiations.

Progress on Washington Commanders Sale

The NFL will not vote on whether or not to approve the sale of the Washington Commanders to Josh Harris.

MORE: NFL Offense Rankings 2023

Given how many rules and bylaws govern the transaction, as well as how much they need to investigate the Harris ownership group, the finance committee will need more time to evaluate the potential transaction.

NFL Implements Emergency Third Quarterback Rule

The NFL voted to allow teams to functionally add an active game-day slot — currently restricted to 46 players — to a third quarterback so long as that quarterback is already on the 53-man roster on game day. That third quarterback would be on the inactive list until activated by the third quarterback rule.

This gives teams an emergency quarterback that they can rely on if their starting quarterback and their backup quarterback both get hurt.

Once teams play the designated third quarterback, they cannot bring the other two active quarterbacks onto the field. This would have prevented an injured Brock Purdy from re-entering the NFC Conference Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles, with a healthy quarterback playing in his and Josh Johnson’s stead.

This is somewhat a revival of the old league rule that allowed teams to carry an emergency quarterback, though that rule was eliminated in favor of adding an active game-day slot, changing the number of active players allowed on game day from 45 to 46. Coaches had stopped opting to make the 46th player a quarterback, and so we revisit the rule, this time with another active player.

This may incentivize teams to carry a third quarterback on their roster coming out of training camp instead of on the practice squad. Teams may only elevate players from the practice squad onto the 53-man roster on game day if they are going to make the active game-day roster, and the third quarterback must be listed as inactive.

That said, they could carry that player on the practice squad for the majority of the week before elevating him to the 53-man roster prior to game day. Game-day elevations are limited regardless, as players can only be elevated on game day three times before league rules require the team to roster him.

The Onside Kick Remains

The NFL voted to table a proposal, once again, that would allow teams trailing late in the fourth quarter to substitute their kickoff attempt after a score with a play from scrimmage.

In this instance, that play would occur from the kickoff line of scrimmage (the team’s own 35-yard line) and would automatically be turned into a fourth down with 20 yards to go. Like any fourth down, a failure to convert would result in a turnover on downs.

Because the odds of an onside kick recovery are roughly on par with the odds of converting 4th-and-13, proposals like this have been kicking around the NFL for some time, with spring leagues and semiprofessional leagues experimenting with it.

No Touchback on Fair Catches on Kickoffs

The NFL delayed their vote on whether or not to automatically create touchbacks to the 25-yard line on any fair catches occurring on kickoffs. At the moment, only fair catches inside the end zone result in touchbacks, while fair catches within the field of play result in the team gaining position from the yard line of the catch.

This proposal would, in theory, reduce the number of injuries that occur on kickoffs — one of the most injury-laden plays in football — by encouraging teams to fair catch the ball even when the ball is kicked to their 2-yard line.

Owners have heard back from their own special teams coaches, who almost universally oppose the idea as it would eliminate the strategic benefit of a kicker who can force a return and kick short of the end zone — meaning teams can force opposing offenses to start inside their own 5-yard line on kickoffs if they make the tackle on the ensuing return.

Green Bay To Host the 2025 NFL Draft

The NFL unanimously voted to approve the proposal by Green Bay to host the 2025 NFL draft.

This was expected, as no other teams bid to host the 2025 NFL Draft.

San Francisco Bay Area To Host the 2026 Super Bowl

The NFL voted to approve the San Francisco Bay Area as hosts for Super Bowl 60, which comes at the conclusion of the 2025 season and would be played in February of 2026. Levi’s Stadium, which is an hour away from San Francisco in Santa Clara, would be the site of the game itself. The week of festivities in the lead-up to the game would occur throughout the Bay Area.

That year, the Bay Area will also play host to the 2026 World Cup, making San Francisco and surrounding cities an exciting, if busy, area that should test San Francisco’s infrastructure. 2026 will be San Francisco’s 250th birthday.

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