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The NFL Just Made A Big Change To Injury Reports

Photo credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

We’re all “day-to-day” in this crazy sport called life, but the NFL’s categorizations for its injured players are changing. Formerly, all players who weren’t 100 percent to go would be listed as either “probable,” “questionable,” or “doubtful.” But I guess that was a little confusing. Now, there’s no more probable.

Here’s part of the league’s memo:


So, hilariously, the NFL shot itself in the dick on this one, completely devaluing the meaning of the word “probable” until it became a joke.

“The ‘Probable’ category was eliminated from the Game Status Report because approximately 95 percent of the players who were listed as ‘Probable’ in prior years did in fact play in the game,” the league explained.

There was a reason for that high percentage of participation. Although many believed that “probable” suggested a 75-percent likelihood of playing, it actually meant that the player was virtually certain to be available for normal duty. After the Falcons scratched quarterback Mike Vick, who had been listed as probable with a knee injury, from a 2005 game against New England, the league reminded teams of the true meaning of “probable,” and it began routinely investigating situations in which a player listed as “probable” did not actually play.

Catch that? The NFL, maybe not understanding what probabilities are, assumed there were shenanigans if a “probable” player—who, by the rules, should have sat out 25 percent of the time—did not play.

You can give a lot of credit for this rule change to Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who despises having to submit injury reports and almost always lists Tom Brady as probable, injured or not, to needle the league and opponents. (For six years afterward, Belichick would cite Brady’s separated shoulder from 2002. He has found some new potential sore spots in recent years.) You can now look forward to every Patriot being listed as “questionable” every week.


The injury report exists solely for gambling; always has. Knowing which players are likely to play is important to betting lines, and as a 2013 paper in the UNLV Gaming Law Journal noted, “[b]y making all injury reports public, the NFL is leveling the playing field among all gamblers by not allowing people with inside information to profit from it.” The NFL is smart enough not to mess with Vegas, which is a huge reason the sport is anywhere near as big as it is, so it must not expect the impact of this rule change on betting to be a large one.

It will, of course, play havoc with setting your lineup for your fantasy football team. But: no one cares about your fantasy football team.

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