How the Detroit Lions might take advantage of the new emergency 3rd quarterback rule with Nate Sudfeld and Hendon Hooker.
A Roster Rule Revival
The NFL owners, in their Spring League Meeting, approved the Lions’ proposal to reintroduce the emergency quarterback rule that was previously in effect from 1991-2010. Under this rule:
- Teams can designate an emergency third quarterback from their active/inactive list.
- The emergency QB will not take up an active roster spot on game day.
- This QB can be activated during a game only if the first two QBs are injured or disqualified.
Sudfeld’s Role in the Lions QB Room
Following the Teddy Bridgewater signing, speculations arose about the fate of Nate Sudfeld. After Friday’s preseason game against the New York Giants, Sudfeld’s on-field limitations became apparent. However, the Lions value Sudfeld for more than just his on-field abilities. As per Lions’ quarterback coach Mark Brunell, Sudfeld “was perfect” supporting starter Jared Goff throughout the 2022 season. He added:
The time that he put in, he was great leading up to our games as far as working with Jared and watching tape together… It’s very important for a starter to have a resource on the sidelines, in the meeting room, a backup guy that really just wants to help Jared be the best that he can be. That’s not always the case in quarterback rooms, but in our room it makes all the difference in the world.
The connection between Goff and Sudfeld has seemingly elevated the entire quarterback room, laying the foundation for consistent performance and growth.
Hendon Hooker Conundrum
The Lions’ decision to draft Hendon Hooker, a quarterback recovering from a torn ACL, adds another layer of intrigue.
Having picked Hooker in the 3rd round of the 2023 NFL Draft, there is a prevailing belief that Hooker will “redshirt” the 2023 season. This means he will likely not play to ensure a full recovery and to gain experience.
Should Hooker be fit to play, the consensus is he might be a better on-field alternative than Sudfeld. The Lions, however, can use the new rule to tactically maintain both Hooker and Sudfeld on the roster without compromising a game day roster spot.
Strategic Application of the Rule
How can the Lions strategically use this rule?
- If Hooker remains injured, he could move to the Reserve/PUP list, NFI list, or the Injured Reserve.
- With Goff, Bridgewater, and Sudfeld as QBs, Sudfeld can serve as the emergency 3rd quarterback.
- Should Hooker recover, the Lions face a decision: either Hooker or Sudfeld move to the practice squad. The other becomes the emergency 3rd QB on game day.
Given his critical role supporting Goff, releasing Sudfeld seems unlikely. This rule offers a strategic solution: keep all four quarterbacks, maintain Sudfeld’s influence in the room, and offer the game day roster spot typically reserved for a 3rd string quarterback to another offensive or defensive player.
This rule might just be the loophole the Lions need to keep their quarterback room intact while optimizing their active game day roster.
For fans wanting a comprehensive look, here’s the full language of the updated bylaw Article XVII, Section 17.3:
One hour and 30 minutes prior to kickoff, each club is required to establish its Active List for the game by notifying the Referee of the players on its Inactive List for that game. Each club may also designate one emergency third quarterback from its 53-player Active/Inactive List (i.e., elevated players are not eligible for designation) who will be eligible to be activated during the game, if the club’s first two quarterbacks on its game day Active List are not able to participate in the game due to injury or disqualification (activation cannot be a result of a head coach’s in-game decision to remove a player from the game due to performance or conduct). If either of the injured quarterbacks is cleared by the medical staff to return to play, the emergency third quarterback must be removed from the game and is not permitted to continue to play quarterback or any other position, but is eligible to return to the game to play quarterback if another emergency third quarterback situation arises.
For more from our Detroit Lions beat writer, Matt Broder, check him out on Twitter here: @mattbro21
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Original Photo Credit: © Lon Horwedel – USA TODAY Sports