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Impact of NFL’s new injury rules is ‘questionable’

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The National Football League has made things interesting for bookmakers and fantasy football players. Earlier this week, the league revised the manner in which teams report their injuries.

For years, injury reports have listed players as “probable,” “questionable,” “doubtful,” and “out.” Beginning this season, the “probable” designation will go away.

Why the change? The NFL concluded “95 percent of the players who were listed as ‘probable’ in prior years actually did in fact play in the game.”

New England Patriots’ Coach Bill Belichick is often mentioned as one who plays games (in accordance with the rules) with opposing teams through the injury report. For example, the Boston Globe reports quarterback Tom Brady is often listed as “probable” with a “shoulder injury,” but has never missed a game with that “injury.”

The league also tweaked the “questionable” and “doubtful” categories. In previous years, those with the “doubtful” designation had only a 25 percent chance of playing. The new standard means that it is “unlikely” that player will play.

The new definition for “questionable” is almost laughable. The old standard meant there was a 50-50 chance that player would play.

The NFL says this designation now means “it is uncertain as to whether the player will play in the game.” This certainly sounds like something ripe for abuse. Call it NFLspeak.

What does all of this mean? Fantasy football “experts” fear mass confusion. “Clarity on injuries isn’t going to happen until about 90 minutes before kickoff each game,” wrote Will Brinson on

However, fantasy veterans are already accustomed to uncertainty under the old designations. Those classified as “questionable” gave owners great pause, which will continue. Conscientious owners will continue to wait until those players are officially declared inactive prior to kickoff.

It will also mean little to coaches and players. Coaches are suspicious, with good reason, of their fellow coaches.

They will practice during the week assuming all players not listed as “out” will wind up playing. At least that is what they say when interviewed about an opponent’s likelihood to play.

Bookmakers? Most of us cannot pretend to know how they establish the precise odds and point spreads they come up with.

They could take in a ton of action from Monday to Saturday based on what they know. If a star player is either cleared to play or declared out just before kickoff, it is easy to see how that could cost them a lot of money either way. The same goes for those placing the wagers (legally, of course).

In summary, here is the definitive statement on the overall effect on the league and those who have a stake in it:


Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at

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