Joc Pederson vs. Tommy Pham Fantasy football rules dispute: What happened, and how to avoid it in your leagues

Settling your Fantasy league disputes can be hard. One recurring segment on the Fantasy Football Today podcast features the crew trying to regulate our listener’s league arguments. But, if there’s one way not to settle your fantasy league disputes, it’s how Tommy Pham approached it this week.

If you haven’t heard by now, Pham slapped Joc Pederson prior to Friday’s game between the Reds and Giants, in a dispute stemming from their Fantasy football league. From what we’ve been able to piece together from the past few days of in-depth reporting, Pham was ultimately sent over the edge by a GIF from Pederson – who started his career with the Dodgers – to the league’s group text, showing … you know what, I feel so silly typing it out, I’ll let the reporter who got the goods from Pederson tell it:

Pham apparently left the league over that GIF, which would be funny if not for his subsequent overreaction. You should not, in fact, slap people because they sent silly GIFs to your Fantasy league group text. This goes without saying, I hope.

But that’s not what I’m concerned about. I’m here to talk about the silly part of this: The Fantasy Football rules disagreement. Apparently, there was some disagreement about the way IR spots were used, and it comes down to a limitation in how IR spots work in many leagues.

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

Not even close. OK, Wilson wasn’t technically on IR for the 49ers last season, sure, but he was on the Physically Unable to Perform list after suffering a knee injury during 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 down the stretch and was clearly worth stashing if you could afford it.

Pederson, on the other hand, was apparently using the IR spot to stash players who were dealing with week-to-week injuries and had been ruled out for the upcoming week – which was, he points out, allowed by the league rules. Which is fair enough, though I think it’s also more than fair to say that usage goes against the spirit of the rule, if not the letter of it. The issue is an ill-defined rule that doesn’t operate the way it should.

The way most Fantasy football leagues work is, you can set your IR policy to only allow players who are on the real-life IR to be on a team’s IR, which won’t allow players on the PUP list to be eligible, despite it also being a long-term injury exemption for NFL teams. So, to get around it with guys like Wilson and Michael Thomas last season, leagues where I am commissioner adjusted our rules to allow any player who was injured to be on IR – with the express stipulation that it could only be used for PUP list players in addition to IR.

Some providers have that as the default option, and the league in question was apparently played on one of these sites (this is all a good example of why you should use CBSSports.com’s highly customizable Commissioner product 😉.) So, if the league never explicitly stipulated that your IR spot can only be used for players with long-term absences, technically Pederson was in the right here.

But that shouldn’t be the rule. This feels like it goes against the spirit of the rule — if a player is on his team’s active roster, you shouldn’t get a roster exemption for them in Fantasy. In this case, the IR in your Fantasy league should serve the same function it does in the real NFL. It should be to give teams additional flexibility when dealing with players who have suffered a long-term absence due to injury, not guys with short-term issues.

So, let’s get ahead of this for 2022 and beyond. If your league allows for this kind of loophole, go ahead and close it – either by changing your settings or by stipulating before the season that the IR should only be used for players on the real life IR or PUP list. That way, we can avoid these kinds of awkward arguments. At least until the next loophole opens.

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