NFL's injury report policy changes will have a significant impact on fantasy owners

In early June, the competition committee approved several changes to the injury report policy — most notable, the elimination of the “probable” designation on the game status report that had been used for players who had a virtual certainty of being available for normal duty in that week’s game.

Instead, if there is any question about the player’s availability for the game, the league says he should now be listed as “questionable” on the status report, which previously meant a player had a 50% chance of playing. If the player is certain to play, he is to be removed from the report, with the club required to provide an explanation to the league and subject to possible discipline if that player ends up being deactivated.

According to a summary of the changes sent by a league spokesman, the probable designation was eliminated because roughly 95% of players listed as probable in prior years played in the game — which makes sense, given it meant "virtual certainty."

The competition committee also eliminated the “out” category from the separate practice report, meaning players can’t formally be ruled out until Fridays before Sunday games, rather than Wednesdays.

Fantasy Impact: 

Senior Editor John Paulsen here. I briefly discussed my thoughts about these changes on Twitter yesterday, but thought it would be a good idea to go over the changes in a news item as well. Since 2011, I've been responsible for the practice/injury reports that 4for4 subscribers see Wednesdays through Fridays, so I spend a lot of time reviewing team practice reports and trying to read the tea leaves when it comes to a player's actual availability on game day.

The Probable tag meant the player was injured but was fully expected to play. It was helpful that there was a delineation between Probable and Questionable players for obvious reasons. From a fantasy football perspective, the league’s reasoning for removing the Probable tag is asinine. Just because an overwhelming number of Probable players suited up on Sundays is no reason to get rid of the designation, effectively giving the public less information in the process.

Since a team will now be punished if a player doesn’t play after being absent from the injury report, then all (non-Doubtful) players who are not 100 percent are going to be listed as Questionable. This means that every team’s injury report is going to look like New England’s, and that’s not a good thing for fantasy owners.

The silver lining here is that the changes will hurt 4for4 subscribers less than those less-informed fantasy owners (i.e. most of your leaguemates). Sunday 1 p.m. (ET) kickoffs shouldn’t change dramatically, though there will be more “wait for the inactive report” situations on Sunday mornings. The key will be the guessing game for the 4 p.m. games, along with the Sunday night and Monday night games. I’ve been studying injuries for five years now, and I think I’m pretty good at predicting a player’s availability and weighing that injury risk in our rankings.

So even though these changes make things more confusing for everyone, they should be relatively less confusing for 4for4 subscribers. - JP

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