Lions propose NFL rule to allow for emergency third quarterback

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Teams across the NFL have started submitted proposals for rule changes they would like to see for the 2023 season. 

The Detroit Lions submitted a notable proposal, which would allow for teams designate a third quarterback to be used in the case of emergency in games. The Lions proposal has quickly become known as the “Josh Johnson Rule.”

If the rule is implemented, teams would be required to pull the third quarterback from their inactive roster or practice squad. The proposal also stipulates that the emergency quarterback can only be used if the first two quarterbacks are ruled out for the remainder of a game due to injury.


The league did previously have a rule in place which permitted the use of an emergency quarterback, but it was rescinded when the NFL expanded game-day rosters.

Teams are currently allowed to have 46 players from the 53-man roster active on game days.

NFL teams have to make inactive designation no later than 90 minutes before the game kicks off, and under current rules, cannot make any adjustments.


Teams do not generally prioritize carrying a third quarterback on the active game-day roster. Instead, most teams opt to use the roster spot on another position on the offensive or defensive side of the ball.

Two quarterbacks on game days usually suffice, but this past season’s NFC title game between the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles seems to have teams rethinking how many quarterbacks that need to be available on game days.

The Niners certainly had their share of quarterback woes leading up to the championship game. Second-year quarterback Trey Lance was named the started at the beginning of the 2022 season, but suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 2. 

Lance underwent a second surgery in December to remove hardware that was inserted into his right ankle during the initial surgery in September. 

Jimmy Garoppolo then stepped into the starting quarterback role. But, the 31-year-old suffered his own injury, a broken left foot during the 49ers’ 33-17 win over the Miami Dolphins in Week 13. Former seventh-round draft pick Brock Purdy started for the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs. 

Purdy suffered a UCL injury in the first quarter of the NFC Championship game, and he was replaced by veteran quarterback Josh Johnson. But, shortly after the third quarter stared, Johnson suffered a concussion.

San Francisco was forced to put Purdy back in the game, despite the quarterback’s injury preventing him from being able to make a forward pass.

The Eagles went on to blowout the Niners, much to the disappointment of anyone who wanted to watch a completive game with a chance to go to the Super Bowl on the line.

Two starting quarterbacks rarely go down during a single game. However, if it does happen this rule would present the opportunity for at least a decent signal caller to step onto the field.

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