NFL owners have approved a bylaw that will allow teams to have a third active quarterback for game days that will not count against their available roster spots, as confirmed by CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones.
According to the new bylaws, teams may designate an emergency quarterback who can be activated in the event that the team's first two quarterbacks are either injured or disqualified. The emergency quarterback must exit the game If the medical staff clears either of the injured quarterbacks to return to action. The emergency quarterback would again be eligible to play in the event of another emergency.
Furthermore, a team cannot use an emergency quarterback if three quarterbacks are already on the active game day roster.
The approved bylaw comes less than four months after the 49ers to turn to running back Christian McCaffrey to play quarterback during the NFC Championship game. McCaffrey attempted one pass after both Brock Purdy and Josh Johnson sustained injuries during San Francisco's 31-7 loss in Philadelphia.
The NFL previously had a third-quarterback rule from 1991-2010. Back then, each team was permitted to dress an emergency third quarterback. If the third quarterback came into the game in the first three quarters, their other two quarterbacks were prohibited from re-entering the game.
Jacob Eason, the 49ers' practice squad quarterback last season, likely would have entered last year's NFC title game if San Francisco had the option of using a third quarterback. While it probably wouldn't have changed the outcome, it would have at least given the 49ers an actual quarterback instead of having to turn to McCaffrey.
"I don't know if having a third guy would've [helped], but it would've been a lot better than being in the wildcat for the rest of the game," said 49ers GM John Lynch, via NBC Sports.
The NFL's new bylaw mimics the one the USFL put in place before the start of the 2023 season. No emergency quarterback has had to be activated, however, as the league enters its seventh week of play.
"Acting as a catalyst for the evolution of the game, the USFL has been creating a conversation throughout the football landscape by implementing innovative rules like an emergency third quarterback," said USFL head of officiating Mike Pereira.