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NFL brings back emergency third quarterback rule

Brock Purdy turned heads last season, but Chris Simms explains to Ahmed Fareed why he lands No. 26 in the "Sophomore Supremes" tier on his Top 40 QB Countdown.

The emergency third quarterback rule is back. It actually never really left.

The league used to allow teams to dress a third quarterback for emergency purposes. If he entered the game before the start of the fourth quarter, the other two could not return. Eventually, the league allowed teams to dress a 46th player, without regard to position.

Few teams ever choose to dress a third quarterback, rolling the dice on lightning not striking twice in the same game at one of the most protected positions. For the 49ers -- and the game -- the dice came up craps (in the bad way) during the NFC Championship, after San Francisco lost both healthy quarterbacks and had no one else.

Now, the league has brought back the third quarterback rule, giving teams the power to designate a roster spot for an extra signal-caller.

There are two catches. First, the player must be on the 53-man roster; he can’t be called up from the practice squad. Second, the third quarterback can play only if the other two are injured or ejected. If one of the injured quarterbacks if cleared to return, the third quarterback must exit.

The question now becomes whether teams will devote a spot on the 53-man roster to a third quarterback. Plenty currently don’t. Perhaps more now will.

Here’s hoping the league holds the line this time, without eventually morphing the resurrected third-quarterback rule into something that can be used for a player at any position. If that ever happens, most teams would devote the spot to other positions, taking their chances with two quarterbacks.