Earlier this year, NFL clubs approved a 2023 bylaw proposal that allows each team to dress a forty-ninth player on gameday as its Emergency Third Quarterback. With the Chicago Bears currently carrying three quarterbacks on the active 53-man roster (Justin Fields, Tyson Bagent, and Nathan Peterman) we wanted to let you guys know the ins and outs of the new rule. Thankfully the league just issued a detailed question-and-answer press release that does just that.
We should find out this week whether Bagent or Peterman will be Fields’ top backup, and which QB will be number three.
Here’s the Q&A from the NFL:
Q: What is an Emergency Third Quarterback?
A: 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:
- 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.
Q: When is an Emergency Third Quarterback permitted to enter a game?
A: 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.
Q: After an Emergency Third Quarterback enters a game, are QB1 or QB2 permitted to return to that game?
A: Yes. If either QB1 or QB2 are evaluated for injury and cleared to return, either may re-enter the game.
Q: Are teams allowed to list players who play other positions as an Emergency Third Quarterback?
A: 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).
Q: Before the game, are Emergency Third Quarterbacks permitted to participate in warmups?
A: Yes. A designated Emergency Third Quarterback may participate with the club’s active players during the official team warm-up period.
Q: Can the Emergency Third Quarterback enter a game after coaches remove QB1 or QB2 for poor play (coach’s decision)?
A: No. The Emergency Third Quarterback cannot enter the game due to the club benching QB1 or QB2.
Q: What if QB2 is unavailable for other reasons, such as an equipment issue?
A: 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.
Q: Are clubs allowed to use this new rule to develop quarterbacks?
A: No. The Emergency Third Quarterback rule is not intended to be a developmental tool to provide a player game experience.
Q: What are the procedures when a club brings an Emergency Third Quarterback into a game?
A: 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.
Q: Are clubs allowed to play an Emergency Third Quarterback in non-traditional fashion (i.e., Wildcat formation)?
A: 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.
Q: What is the penalty for violations of these procedures?
A: An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty will be assessed if the club violates any aspects of the above procedures.
Q: Does the Emergency Third Quarterback have a radio in his helmet?
A: 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.).
Q: What are the procedures for either QB1 or QB2 returning to the game after a club uses its Emergency Third Quarterback?
A: 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.
Q: 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?
A: Yes. The Emergency Third Quarterback remains eligible to return to the game if another Emergency Third Quarterback situation arises.
Q: What is the definition of a bona fide quarterback?
A: 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.