The NFL has approved a number of new rule changes for the 2023 season.
Notably, the league now has the ability to flex late season games from Sunday to Thursday night.
The resolution comes with strict requirements: Thursday games can only be flexed between Weeks 13 and 17, with a four-week notice required. Only two Thursday night games can be flexed per year, and the resolution notes that the flexible scheduling for TNF is on “a trial basis.”
It isn’t not a huge surprise to see this happen now. The NFL is receiving $1 billion per year from Amazon to broadcast Thursday Night Football, and last year’s package of games was largely unappealing. Amazon was likely vocal in pushing for some assurances it could receive a better slate of games.
The NFL is ultimately a business and focused on chasing every last dollar. Financially this move likely makes sense. For the fans, the players, and the overall level of competition it does not.
If you have followed the league for long enough, you might remember that the primary motivation behind moving the featured game on the schedule from Monday Night Football to Sunday Night Football back in 2006 was the unfairness to fans in attendance to change the date of a game. The NFL is long past worrying about how its decisions impact fans, though. The Amazon $1 billion is more important. The quality of play and impact on players are also secondary considerations.
As the league made this decision, it also made changes to the kickoff returns.
NFL approved new touchback rule. Fair catches on kickoffs to the 25-yard line. pic.twitter.com/e9WdTT1Eud— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) May 23, 2023
This rule also exists in college football. The NFL estimates it will reduce the number of kickoffs returned and improve player safety.
Speaking on the new fair catch rule, NFL exec Jeff Miller cites higher concussion rates on kickoffs and punts relative to other plays and says unprompted: “There may be more to come.”— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 23, 2023
Modeling says return rate will drop from 38% to 31% and concussion rate drop 15%, Miller says.
Finally, the league has brought back a rule that was eliminated in 2011 which allows teams to have a emergency quarterback dress for games. This quarterback will not count against the team’s allotment of 47 to 48 active players on gameday.
The NFL approved a bylaw to allow teams to dress a third "emergency" QB on gamedays. If two active QBs are injured or disqualified from game & unable to participate, QB3 can come up.— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) May 22, 2023
Notable after 49ers faced challenge in NFC Championship. pic.twitter.com/JKssu3WMYF
Prior to 2011 teams were allowed to activate 45 players for gameday along with an emergency quarterback. In 2011 the rules changed. The emergency quarterback was eliminated, and teams were allowed to dress 46 players.
This led many teams to carry only two quarterbacks on their roster. It was unusual to see three quarterbacks activated.
It seemed like it was only a matter of time before the emergency quarterback rule was implemented. It would take a team suffering multiple injuries in a big game. Of course that happened to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game when both of their quarterbacks, Brock Purdy and Josh Johnson, were injured.