The NFL confirmed Sunday a streamlined policy for reporting an injured player's game status during the regular season, a move that addresses the rise of gamesmanship among teams that want to limit that information for competitive purposes.
Under the revised policy, approved recently by the NFL competition committee, the "probable" category has been eliminated and the remaining classifications have been redefined.
Two days before kickoff, teams must list injured players as "questionable," "doubtful" or "out" for that game.
"Questionable" players, per the policy, are "uncertain" to play. Previously, the definition was that there was a 50 percent likelihood of playing.
"Doubtful" means the player is "unlikely" to participate in the game and "out" means he "will not play." The previous definition for "doubtful" was a 75 percent likelihood that he would not play. A primary intent of the changes is to nudge teams away from listing relatively healthy players on an injury report. According to the league, roughly 95 percent of players listed as "probable" in prior years ended up playing. "If there is any question concerning a player's availability for the game," the policy reads, "he should be listed as "questionable.'"
It remains to be seen whether teams will go along with the change or just shift players they once would have listed as "probable" into the new "questionable" category.
As in previous years, teams also will be required to file practice reports during the week to confirm the extent of practice participation. All injured players must be listed under one of three categories. If he did not practice, the terminology will be "did not participate." If an injured player practices, he will be listed under either "limited participation" if he took less than 100 percent of his normal reps, or "full participation" if he took 100 percent of his normal reps.
If an injured player is certain to play, even if he has been listed on the practice report, he cannot be placed on the game status report. In theory, this will minimize speculation about a player who in truth is cleared for normal duty.
An official explanation will be required by the league if any team deactivates an injured player who was not listed under the game status report. Discipline is possible if the spirit of the policy is violated.