What Is the New 3rd QB Rule?

Why did the NFL allow teams to have an emergency third quarterback beginning this season?

During last season’s NFC Championship Game, the San Francisco 49ers were forced to play without a healthy quarterback after Brock Purdy and Josh Johnson were injured. Purdy left with an elbow injury in the first half and returned after Johnson was ruled out with a concussion.

The 49ers trailed by 14 points when Purdy returned in the third quarter, but he only attempted two short passes the rest of the game. In the offseason, the NFL changed the rules to allow teams to have an emergency third quarterback if needed.

What Is an Emergency 3rd Quarterback?

Teams are allowed to designate an emergency quarterback that can only be used if the first two quarterbacks get injured. The designated player must be a bona fide QB on the team’s 53-man roster and cannot be on the practice squad.

Teams must have two bona fide quarterbacks active for the game to be allowed to list an emergency QB. This prevents teams from having only one quarterback active and using the emergency spot for a backup.

MORE: NFL Backup Quarterback Rankings 2023

A team cannot have an emergency QB if three bona fide quarterbacks are active for the game.

A bona fide quarterback is defined as someone who wears a jersey number authorized for a QB and is an established quarterback or a player who takes regular-season snaps only at the position during at least three consecutive weeks of practice.

When Is an Emergency 3rd QB Allowed To Enter a Game?

An emergency third quarterback is allowed to enter the game if two active QBs are unable to play, either by disqualification or injury. This would include if the starter is unable to play and the backup is being evaluated for an injury.

The emergency QB is not allowed to enter the game because of poor play by the first two quarterbacks.

The emergency quarterback also cannot be used in a developmental role. For example, if the Dallas Cowboys are in a one-sided game, Trey Lance can’t come into the game to get experience if he’s listed as the emergency QB.

How Does Using an Emergency QB Impact a Team’s Offense?

If the emergency third quarterback enters the game, he must take every snap. This would prevent a team from using a wildcat formation or having a direct snap to another player with the quarterback in a shotgun formation.

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty will be assessed if another player takes an offensive snap.

Can One of the Active Quarterbacks Return to the Game?

Yes. If the medical staff clears them, the first two quarterbacks can return. The emergency quarterback can return later in the game if needed because of a QB injury or disqualification.

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