Gone are the day of watching punters or running backs or wide receivers warming up on the sidelines as the emergency quarterback of NFL game.
During Monday's league meetings, NFL owners approved a bylaw proposal allowing teams to dress a third quarterback without using a roster spot.
A few weeks ago, Case Keenum told the story of the 2014 game at Indianapolis when punter Shane Lechler almost entered the game for the Houston Texans. At the time, Keenum was on the St. Louis Rams practice squad and hunting for deer following a Thursday night game.
"So that weekend I was in a tree stand," Keenum said in an interview on Texans Radio. "It was Sunday evening and I was not thinking about football at all. I was trying to bag my 12-point buck and my wife is texting me. She's watching the Texans game because she's still so invested in the Texans. All our friends were still here. And she says, Oh, my gosh, Tom Savage is hurt, Ryan Fitzpatrick is hurt. And they're like, Shane Lechler is warming up on the sideline to go in the game. And I'm like, wow, that'd be crazy. I wonder if they might call me."
Twenty minutes later, Keenum's phone began ringing. By the end of the night, he was on a flight back to Houston, signed to the Texans active roster.
Over the years, the Texans have had a few close encounters with a looming emergency quarterback situation. In 2011, starting QB Matt Schaub suffered a season-ending Lisfranc foot injury against Tampa Bay. Matt Leinart stepped in and started the next game at Jacksonville but broke his collarbone in the second quarter. Rookie T.J. Yates finished the game which ended in a 20-13 win, but Houston made sure to sign plenty of reinforcements: Kellen Clemens, Jake Delhomme and Jeff Garcia. However, Houston would never need to use an emergency quarterback (or even a backup, for that matter) since Yates finished the season and postseason.
With the new NFL rule, teams will have to make space on their 53-man rosters for a third quarterback should they need one. Players elevated from the practice squad won't be eligible. The new rule states:
"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."
The league previously had a third-quarterback rule in effect from 1991-2010.