NFL Tweaks IR/Designated To Return Rule

Most of the NFL’s rule changes that were proposed and approved at this week’s owners’ meetings affect the play on the field, but at least one rule change will have an impact on how teams manage their rosters going forward. As Marc Sessler of details, the league has adjusted the rules for the usage of the IR/designated to return slot.

Previously, a team was required to specify whether a player was receiving the designated-to-return tag at the time that player was placed on injured reserve. The designation allowed the player to return to practice after six weeks and to return to game action after eight weeks, rather than having to spend the entire season on IR.

Based on a new rule proposed by the Bills and approved by the NFL’s owners, teams will no longer have to specifically designate that a player will be occupying that IR-DTR spot when he’s placed on injured reserve. For instance, if a team places five players on injured reserve before Week 1, that club could decide at a later date to bring back any one of those players off IR.

The six-week waiting period will still apply, and teams will still only be able to use the IR-DTR designation on a single player per year — so in the previous example, the other four players will have to stay on IR all season, or until they work out an injury settlement with the club. Still, the option to postpone the decision on which player gets the designation will give teams more freedom and roster flexibility going forward, allowing clubs to maximize the use of that IR-DTR spot.

The rest of this week’s rule changes can be found via Sessler’s piece and right here.

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