EAGAN, Minn. — NFL owners approved a rule Monday that allows teams to designate an emergency quarterback on game day, a rule they revived after the San Francisco 49ers ran out of quarterbacks during their loss in the NFC Championship Game last season to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The rule applies only to quarterbacks who are on a team’s 53-man roster. Practice squad players are not eligible to be emergency quarterbacks, not even if they are elevated for that week’s game. But it allows a team to avoid counting the emergency quarterback as one of its active players on game day, a modest incentive for teams that otherwise would have chosen to go into a game with only two available quarterbacks.
The emergency quarterback would be eligible for in-game activation if the rest of a team’s quarterbacks are unable to participate due to injury or ejection, but not as a result of a benching. If one of the other quarterbacks is cleared to return to the game, the emergency quarterback must be removed at that time and can return only if there is once again no other option.
The XFL and USFL have applied a similar rule this spring, and the NFL itself used it from 1991 to 2010. During 2011 collective bargaining with the NFL Players Association, the sides decided to increase the overall limit of game-day active players rather than limit it to one position.