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NFL drops third quarterback rule, 46 active players on game day

Washington Redskins v Chicago Bears Getty Images

With everyone focusing on how the league’s finances will change for the 2011 season and beyond, little attention has been paid to the rules changes that will affect the teams on game days. But one change that the owners and players to agree to will come into play on Sunday afternoons.

The owners and players have agreed to expand game day rosters from 45 to 46 active players. The No. 3 quarterback will no longer be an “emergency” inactive player.

In other words, a team can insert its third-string quarterback for a short period at any point in the game, then take him out and put the starter back in. Previously, the first and second quarterbacks couldn’t re-enter the game if the No. 3 quarterback played before the fourth quarter.

That rule came up most prominently last season when the Bears bungled the backup quarterback situation in the NFC Championship Game. After starter Jay Cutler went down and backup Todd Collins struggled, Bears coach Lovie Smith inserted No. 3 quarterback Caleb Hanie into the game just in time for him to hand off twice in the third quarter. Smith’s decision to put Hanie in the game in the third quarter instead of waiting for the fourth meant that if Hanie had suffered an injury, the Bears would have been without a quarterback for the rest of the game.

In 2011, the lack of a third-quarterback designation could be helpful for teams with third-string quarterbacks who are running threats: Now the third-stringer could be inserted as a wildcat quarterback for a play or two and then be replaced by the starter. That could be worth considering for whatever team selects Terrelle Pryor in the supplemental draft.

But the most likely result of the change to 46 active players on Sundays may just be that teams will add another active player at another position and keep two quarterbacks active on Sundays. For most teams, having extra depth at another position will be more useful than the ability to insert the third quarterback into the game whenever they please.

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44 Responses to “NFL drops third quarterback rule, 46 active players on game day”
  1. jersey73 says: Jul 22, 2011 12:56 PM

    So this is in there, the floor on the salary cap at 99% & 95% is in there, less padded practices are in there, 2 year injury protection (at something like $1 million a year) is now in there (previously it was 1 year and $250,000)…yeah, players…really looks like the owners were trying to put stuff in to screw you guys. (ROLLS EYES IN DISGUST AT PLAYERS!)

  2. FinFan68 says: Jul 22, 2011 12:57 PM

    That was a stupid rule that needed to be deleted. The teams can play any player at any position. It shouldn’t matter beyond that

  3. supashug says: Jul 22, 2011 12:57 PM

    The Bears inadequate coaching caused a rule change, so embarassing.
    I guess we can blame them for extra time in the CBA now, nice work morons, do you need anything else for next season included in the CBA

  4. cardsfann1 says: Jul 22, 2011 12:57 PM

    Well at this rate it will be nice in 2012!!! Unbelievable that they haven’t signed the damn deal yet!

  5. twitter:Chapman_Jamie says: Jul 22, 2011 12:58 PM

    Can you guys do us a solid? Try to find one player, just one, that can actually point to one specific thing that they don’t like in this new deal. And none of this “inflation” crap that Spikes is ranting about. It has to be a REAL problem. You guys are doing a spectacular job and pointing out the concessions by the league so I trust you can take care of this for us.

  6. silverhornet says: Jul 22, 2011 12:59 PM

    I smell a Pat White revival… or not

  7. mgp1219 says: Jul 22, 2011 1:03 PM

    It was a senseless rule anyway. Glad they got rid of it.

  8. RexCanCoach says: Jul 22, 2011 1:03 PM

    Sounds like game day numbers really going from 44 players to 46 players as the 3rd QB usually doesn’t move off of the bench at all.

    Hey Mike T., another reason to keep Brad Smith as your 3rd QB, special teams and WR and instead release Kellen Clemens.

  9. Davo says: Jul 22, 2011 1:03 PM

    The Colts should probably just go with one QB on the game day roster, since we all know what the result would be with the backups!

  10. rayvens says: Jul 22, 2011 1:04 PM

    NFL drops third quarterback rule, 46 active players on game day
    —————————–
    This is bad news for Chadd Henne, Alex Smith ..and all QBs on the Cardinals roster

  11. deadeye says: Jul 22, 2011 1:04 PM

    GOOD!! That QB rule was the most asinine thing I’ve ever heard of.

  12. paulsdamnblog says: Jul 22, 2011 1:05 PM

    I never really liked that rule anyway, if the starter was injured then the # 2 had to come off the field for a series due to an injury, teams were pretty much…. AW WHO GIVES A DAMN SIGN THE AGREEMENT AND PLAY SOME FOOTBALL DAMNIT!

  13. fivetwos says: Jul 22, 2011 1:09 PM

    The third QB is usually a developmental guy.

    It’s a good way to get them some garbage time reps they otherwise would not have gotten.

  14. mike83ri says: Jul 22, 2011 1:10 PM

    RexCanCoach says:
    Jul 22, 2011 1:03 PM
    Sounds like game day numbers really going from 44 players to 46 players as the 3rd QB usually doesn’t move off of the bench at all.

    Hey Mike T., another reason to keep Brad Smith as your 3rd QB, special teams and WR and instead release Kellen Clemens.

    ———————–

    Um no. The emergency QB wasn’t on the active 45man roster. So it’s going from 45+1 to 46. Reading helps.

  15. paulseiferth says: Jul 22, 2011 1:10 PM

    Let’s get the facts right. Cutler was out with his injury, we all know that. Todd Collins, the #2, suffered his own but not as well reported injury just before the end of the 3rd quarter. Which is why Hanie went in.

  16. zaggs says: Jul 22, 2011 1:11 PM

    So now will we have Wildcat specific QB’s?

  17. capslockkey says: Jul 22, 2011 1:12 PM

    Like it would have mattered if Hanie got hurt. The way Collins and Cutler were playing before coming out, they could have put in Brian Urlacher at QB and it would have produced the same results.

  18. johnnyjagfan says: Jul 22, 2011 1:13 PM

    I like this! There’s now an availability for more flexibility in game planning.

  19. fcs34 says: Jul 22, 2011 1:18 PM

    I won’t know what to think about this until some random, little known NFL player chimes in via twitter.

  20. Mike Tomlin says: Jul 22, 2011 1:18 PM

    “Smith’s decision to put Hanie in the game in the third quarter instead of waiting for the fourth meant that if Hanie had suffered an injury, the Bears would have been without a quarterback for the rest of the game.”

    And then what? Seriously what would they have to do? Fumblerooski every play?

  21. laeaglefan says: Jul 22, 2011 1:18 PM

    I always thought that was a dumb rule anyway. It was wasting a roster spot for a player that wouldn’t even get in the game 95% of the time. Much better to be able to use that extra slot on a special teams player, or someone that may make a difference.

  22. alphaq2 says: Jul 22, 2011 1:18 PM

    I feel like Donovan McNabb. I had no idea that rule even existed. Remember all the heat Cutler took for his toughness / sideline demeanor. Who knew he wasn’t even allowed to come back in the game?

  23. mdnittlion says: Jul 22, 2011 1:19 PM

    @ supashug

    Why is that so surprising, they changed the overtime rules in the playoffs, cause no one wanted to watch the Saints go to the Superbowl. Don’t forget Tom Brady getting hurt, which triggered rule change about how QB’s are protected. It’s not stupid it’s just how things are going to be in the future.

  24. zackwheat says: Jul 22, 2011 1:20 PM

    I can’t wait for the whining from the first coach who only activates two QBs and sees them both go down in the same game. He’ll be screaming for another player to be added to the active roster.

  25. wetpaperbag2 says: Jul 22, 2011 1:22 PM

    @jersey73:

    Unless you have seen the “original” CBA offer and the one that the owners “inserted items at the last minute”, you or anyone else cannot say one way or another who is getting screwed or who is just stalling.

    Until the COMPLETE CURRENT owners offer and the player’s counter offer is displayed in full, no one…and I mean NO ONE can who is getting the better end of this deal.

  26. browniebuck says: Jul 22, 2011 1:24 PM

    As a Canton resident…having the Hall of Fame game canceled SUCKS. It was always fun to have the blimp over my house for 3 or 4 hours during the game.

    And…if it hasn’t been said enough as of yet, SIGN THE DAMN DEAL ALREADY!!!

  27. Deb says: Jul 22, 2011 1:25 PM

    Ridiculous rule that needed to be dropped.

  28. vikings2102 says: Jul 22, 2011 1:25 PM

    The rule in general is crap. If you have 53 players on the roster, you should be able to play 53 players (outside of injury of course). There is no need to not let them play!!

  29. dbellina says: Jul 22, 2011 1:27 PM

    This could have a big impact on teams that like to use the wildcat.

  30. bears354 says: Jul 22, 2011 1:32 PM

    Just a reminder, Cutler and Collins both got hurt. That’s why Hanie came in the game when he did. See what happens when you listen to a guy who hates the Bears and looks for any opportunity to get a dig in on them.

  31. BroncoNick says: Jul 22, 2011 1:36 PM

    With everything I’ve heard I don’t understand how the players can’t be happy with this deal… sign it today!

  32. dickroy says: Jul 22, 2011 1:42 PM

    That 3rd Qback rule was stupid anyway!!

  33. tundey says: Jul 22, 2011 1:51 PM

    You say “Smith’s decision to put Hanie in the game in the third quarter instead of waiting for the fourth meant that if Hanie had suffered an injury, the Bears would have been without a quarterback for the rest of the game.”…it doesn’t matter what point the game the 3rd string QB comes in. If he’s injured, you are SOL.

  34. lionfan419 says: Jul 22, 2011 1:51 PM

    Yes more Drew Stanton Dougie dances!!!!

  35. thephantomstranger says: Jul 22, 2011 1:52 PM

    For most teams, having extra depth at another position will be more useful than the ability to insert the third quarterback into the game whenever they please.
    _____________

    I think this is a misunderstanding of the new rule. You don’t still have the chance to insert the 3rd QB if you don’t make him active. So if you choose the extra depth at another position you may get burned by not having enough depth at the QB position, which I think is a pretty important position.

  36. thephantomstranger says: Jul 22, 2011 1:53 PM

    I hope they don’t have a rule that you can’t have three third-string quarterbacks, because the Redskins would be screwed.

  37. hscorpio says: Jul 22, 2011 2:00 PM

    I wish they had figured out a way to make it so no healthy players are forced to sit the game out. It seems rather crazy that NFL teams are giving healthy players on the active roster a check for games they cannot suit up to play because they were not part of the 45 man (now 46) game day roster.

  38. wetpaperbag2 says: Jul 22, 2011 2:05 PM

    @BroncoNick :

    That’s because you HAVEN’T heard everything yet. You and everyone else is getting bits and pieces of the entire process.

    How would YOU know that the player “should be happy” with this deal? Because someone said on a news show that the players get 48% of the pie? What about health care? What about the injured reserve clauses? What about other roster exempt rules? What about salary cap rules that allow the teams to “manipulate” a contract to help it’s end but screw the player out of potential money? What about the rules on the franchise and transition tags? Have they changed as well?

    The problem with this entire process is that BOTH sides have NOT given details on the ENTIRE CBA. Both sides seem more occupied about how each can make the other look bad in the eyes of the fans.

    As Flava Flav once said, “Don’t believe the hype!”

  39. titan40 says: Jul 22, 2011 2:27 PM

    Hanie should be a quarterback teams should look at. I mean, he did come close to leading the Bears in a comeback in the championship. I think he should be given a chance somewhere.

  40. time2speakup says: Jul 22, 2011 2:58 PM

    I’ve said it before, and here it is again for the umpteenth and last time – and Yes I have heard it before, this logic behind each team dressing a fixed number supposedly being the fairest way to keep a level playing field in case of injury. I think the logic is flawed, and makes no sense. Here it is: if you have 53 players – dress them and play them. Every team has 53 – every team should dress them and play them, and designating a “fixed” number under 53 FOR WHATEVER REASON, just does not compute to me. Period.

  41. imjinbrdgr says: Jul 22, 2011 3:32 PM

    Players that aren’t active on game days do not have to be paid. Thats why they dress 45(46) not 53.

    I also think Lovie deserves some slack for that move. As a Packer fan I was hoping for any circumstance that Collins could come back in the game. Did any of you actually watch how bad he was. Any body they would have put back there to take the snap would have been better.

  42. blackheld says: Jul 22, 2011 3:43 PM

    bears354 says: Jul 22, 2011 1:32 PM

    Just a reminder, Cutler and Collins both got hurt. That’s why Hanie came in the game when he did. See what happens when you listen to a guy who hates the Bears and looks for any opportunity to get a dig in on them.

    ————————————————-

    Dude, everyone hates the Bears. You wanna be loved, take one roll of duct tape, use it on Urlacher and Briggs’ mouths, and tape Cutler into a ballistic protection suit.

    Oh, and tape Mike Martz’ playbook shut.

  43. marima07 says: Jul 22, 2011 7:27 PM

    A coach that bungled his QB rotation is the cause of this rule change. What next?

    How about for a coach that can’t manage the clock, the league allows his team to just finish the drive even if the clock runs out.

  44. miniditka says: Jul 26, 2011 1:20 PM

    Hi P. Allen Smith
    First off since you scored a 7 on your football Wonderlic test, please stick with your Gardening books and TV Shows.
    “Lovie Smith inserted No. 3 quarterback Caleb Hanie into the game just in time for him to hand … the Bears would have been without a quarterback for the rest of the game.”
    If you were watching Todd Collins had thrown the game away despite a great performance by the Bear defense. At that point they had NO QB and NO SHOT at winning the game anyway.
    It was because of this ridiculous rule that the Bears cut Dan LeFevour, a promising rookie from Central Michigan for a dead weight veteran,fearing rookie mistakes. UGGGGH, the NFL GM’s that lose cannot evaluate talent.

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