Joc Pederson vs. Tommy Pham fantasy football rules dispute: what happened and how to avoid it in your leagues

Resolving your fantasy league disputes can be difficult. A recurring segment on the Fantasy Football Today podcast features the crew attempting to regulate our listeners’ league arguments. But if there’s one way to keep your fantasy league squabbles from being settled, this week’s Tommy Pham has it.

In case you haven’t heard, Pham beat Joc Pederson in a dispute over their fantasy football league ahead of Friday’s game between the Reds and Giants. From what we’ve been able to piece together over the past few days of in-depth coverage, Pham was finally sent over the edge of the league’s group text by a GIF of Pederson — who began his career with the Dodgers — showing… You know what, here I come foolish enough to type it out, I’ll let the reporter who got the merchandise from Pederson tell it:

Pham apparently left the league because of this GIF, which would be funny if it weren’t for his subsequent overreaction. You should indeed not smack people for sending silly GIFs to your fantasy league group text. Hopefully that goes without saying.

But that’s not my point. I’m here to talk about the silly part of it: The Fantasy Football Rules Disagreement. Apparently there has been some disagreement over the way IR spots have been used and it boils down to a limitation on how IR spots work in many leagues.

Pederson officially put a player who was injured but not on injured reserve on his team’s IR spot, which Pham reportedly called out. Pederson then called out Pham and brought 49ers back to Jeff Wilson in his IR spot when Wilson wasn’t officially on IR. So Pham was a hypocrite, right?

Not even close. OK, so while Wilson wasn’t technically in IR for the 49ers last season, he did make the list of physically unfit players after suffering a knee injury in the offseason. Wilson, who led the 49ers in rushing in 2020, didn’t play until Week 10 last season while on the PUP list, but he started four games for them and was clearly worth tucking away if you put your mind to it could afford.

Pederson, on the other hand, apparently used the IR spot to tuck players who were dealing with injuries week in and week out and had been ruled out for the week ahead – which he points out was allowed under league rules. Which is fair enough, although I think it’s also more than fair to say that using it goes against the spirit of the rule, if not the letter. The problem is a poorly defined rule that doesn’t work as it should.

Most fantasy football leagues work in such a way that you can set your IR policy so that only players who are in the real IR can be included in a team’s IR, which still disallows players on the PUP list as well a long-term injury waiver for NFL teams. So to get around it with the likes of Wilson and Michael Thomas last season, leagues where I am commissioner adjusted our rules to allow any injured player to be on IR – with the express stipulation that it only for PUP list players can be used in addition to IR.

Some providers have this as a default option, and the league in question appears to have been played on one of those sites (these are all good examples of why you should use CBSSports.com’s highly customizable Commissioner product 😉.) So if the league never expressly stated that your IR spot can only be used for players with a longer absence, technically Pederson was right here.

But that shouldn’t be the rule. This seems to go against the spirit of the rule – if a player is on their team’s active roster, you shouldn’t get a roster exemption for them in Fantasy. In this case, the IR should serve the same function in your fantasy league as it does in the real NFL. It should give teams extra flexibility in dealing with players who have been out through injury for a long time, rather than players with short-term problems.

So let’s move forward for 2022 and beyond. If your league allows this type of loophole, close it – either by changing your settings or specifying before the season that the IR should only be used for players on the real IR or PUP list. This way we can avoid these kinds of awkward arguments. At least until the next gap opens up.

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