A rule change passed Wednesday morning basically eliminates the injured reserve – desginated for return list but does not eliminate the rule allowing one player per team, per season to return to action from the injured reserve list.
Now, teams can simply choose a player who’s been on injured reserve for at least six weeks and activate him once he’s healthy enough to play again.
Still only one player per season may be activated from injured reserve, but the team does not need to designate that player when he’s placed on IR. In the past, if a player was hurt in the preseason or early in the regular season, teams would have decide whether to use the return designation — or, in some cases, whether to place the player on IR at all until it had a clear timetable for a potential return.
Now, teams could potentially use some strategy and gamesmanship in deciding which injured player could make a late-season comeback. Decisions could be made based on roster strength and depth, or in the case of multiple players being potentially eligible to return, waiting until the last minute before a weekly activation deadline could keep opponents guesssing. Under the old rule, the player with the IR-return designation was out at least six weeks before returning to practice and eight before he could return to game action.
The new rule was proposed by the Buffalo Bills. The original designated for return rule was passed in 2012; prior to then, any player placed on injured reserve would miss the rest of the season.