League owners will vote next week on two major proposed changes to injured reserve rules, per Albert Breer of SI.com (Twitter link). The first would allow up to three players who have been placed on IR to return later in the season (currently, only two IR’d players are permitted to return). The second would make players who are placed on IR prior to final roster cutdowns eligible to return.
The first of those proposed changes is fairly self-explanatory, though it wasn’t that long ago that a player who was put on injured reserve was automatically ruled out for the rest of the season. In 2012, clubs were permitted to return one player from IR during the season, but they had to designate a specific player as a return candidate. In 2016, the rules were modified so that teams did not have to slap a “DTR” label on a specific player and could instead return any IR’d player they wanted. And in 2017, the league began allowing teams to bring back two players from injured reserve.
Throughout those changes, however, one thing has remained constant: in order to be eligible to return from IR, a player had to make his team’s final 53-man preseason roster. So we frequently saw situations like that of Kurt Coleman last year, who was cut by the Bills prior to final cutdowns just so that Buffalo could carry tight end Jason Croom on the 53-man and then place him on IR (thereby making him eligible to return later in the season). Buffalo re-signed Coleman the next day.
That type of borderline senseless roster maneuvering may soon be a thing of the past. Still, a player on IR will not be permitted to practice until six weeks after landing on injured reserve and cannot return to game action until his team has played eight games after he was put on IR.