NFL votes to allow emergency quarterback again

NFL owners on Monday voted to approve a proposal by the Minnesota Vikings that will again permit teams to designate an emergency quarterback.

The designated third quarterback won't count against the team's active roster.

A quarterback designated as an emergency quarterback will not be permitted to enter a game unless the quarterbacks on the active roster are both injured. If, after the emergency quarterback enters the game, and the team determines either of the two quarterbacks on the active roster are capable of returning to the game, the emergency quarterback will not be permitted to re-enter the game.

The rule is a reversal by the league – of sorts – since the NFL permitted emergency quarterbacks from 1991 through 2010.

Under the previous rule, however, if the third quarterback designee entered a game before the end of the third quarter the starter and backup quarterback were not permitted to return to the game.

That rule was negated when game-day rosters expanded to 46 players, up from 45. But many teams declined to use the extra roster space for a third quarterback, an issue that came to a head in the NFC Championship when the San Francisco 49ers saw starter Brock Purdy and backup Josh Johnson injured in their loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

The 49ers did not have a third quarterback active for the game and Purdy re-entered the game despite what was later determined to be a torn ligament in his elbow after Johnson suffered a concussion.

One other tweak to the rule involves teams that utilize the game-day expansion of their roster to 47 or 48 active players by calling up someone off their practice squad.

If they utilize that game-day expansion of their roster to 54 or 55 players, their third quarterback will not be eligible to be designated an emergency quarterback.

The Steelers as an organization have long believed in carrying three quarterbacks on their active roster. But the team also has utilized the rule permitting roster expansion to 54 or 55 players on game days since that rule was enacted in response to COVID-19.

The NFL also voted to allow flex scheduling for Thursday night games for Weeks 13 through 17. Games flexed from a Sunday to a Thursday will be required to have 28 days advance notice to do so. Obviously, teams also will be flexed out of the Thursday time slot.

Teams will only be permitted to be flexed from a Sunday afternoon game to a Thursday game one time.

The rule is in place for the 2023 season only on a trial basis. If no Thursday games are flexed in the 2023 season, the rule would then carry over to the 2024 season.

The Steelers already have the maximum allotted Thursday night games this season with two. They host the Tennessee Titans Nov. 2 and then host the New England Patriots Dec. 7. Since the game against the Patriots falls within the Weeks 13 through 17 threshold, there is a possibility that game could be flexed out of the Thursday night slot.

• Dale Lolley is co-host of "SNR Drive" on Steelers Nation Radio. Subscribe to the podcast here: Apple Podcast | iHeart Podcast

Also on Monday, the NFL, together with the NFL Physicians Society (NFLPS) and the Professional Football Athletic Trainers Society (PFATS), announced the league-wide expansion of the NFL Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative, providing medical students with the opportunity to complete a clinical rotation with NFL club medical staff.

The initiative, now in its second year, aims to increase and diversify the pipeline of students interested in pursuing careers in sports medicine to help make a positive impact in the medical field and, over time, help to diversify NFL club medical staff.

Medical students interested in primary care sports medicine and orthopedic surgery have been selected to complete one-month clinical rotations with NFL clubs, presenting a unique opportunity to learn from and work directly with club medical staff as they deliver world-class care to players across the league. Last year's inaugural class consisted of 14 students from the four Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) medical schools who completed rotations across eight NFL clubs. The 2023 program expands to match diverse students from 19 medical schools with NFL clubs across the league.

The NFL also named Green Bay, Wis., as the host of the 2025 NFL Draft.

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