The NFL has had a short term IR rule, better known as the "IR with designation to return rule," in effect since 2012.
By the terms of that rule, each NFL team could designate one player per season to return from IR at the time he was placed on IR. The designated to return player could not practice for at least 6 weeks from the date he was placed on IR, and could not return to the regular roster for at least eight weeks.
Only the designated player could potentially return from IR. If that designated player did not progress as rapidly as hoped in his recovery and proved to be unable to return to football action, no other player on IR could potentially return in his place.
And If a more valuable player became injured after the designation to return had already been used, the only available options for that more valuable player were to keep him on the regular roster in the hope he would be able to return, while tying up one of only 53 regular roster slots with an inactive player, or to move him to the ordinary long term version of IR where he would have to remain for the remainder of the regular and postseason.
The NFL announced a change to the short term IR rule on Wednesday.
Under the new rule, the player to potentially return from IR will no longer have to be designated to return at the time he is placed on IR. Potentially any one player on IR who progresses in his recovery to the point that he is once again physically able to play football will be permitted to do so subject to the discretion of his team.
No other terms of the previous rule have been changed. Only one player per team will be allowed to return from IR to the regular roster, and that player must have spent at least 6 weeks on IR before he will be allowed to practice, and at least 8 weeks before he can return for game day action.
In my opinion, the change to the short-term IR rule is an excellent idea since it will offer teams a little more much-needed flexibility when it comes to the management of rosters and player injuries.
I do wonder why it took four years to make this eminently sensible change, and I also wonder if it goes far enough.
Perhaps more than one player should be allowed to return from IR if he is physically ready to do so. Is there really any valid reason why any and all injured players who have spent eight or more weeks on IR and have recovered from their injuries should not be allowed to return to football action?
Editor's Note: This is a contributor's post as part of a staff tryout at MHR. Let Ozark know your thoughts on her piece in the comments!