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NFL approves rule to allow 2 players to return from injured reserve

Teams will have more flexibility when it comes to adding and removing injured players from the active roster.

NFL: New England Patriots at New York Jets Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

NFL officials approved a new rule Tuesday that will double the number of players teams can bring back from injured reserve during the season. Franchises will have the opportunity to recall two players from the IR back to the active roster in 2017, allowing for greater roster flexibility for teams who lose multiple starters to injury early in the season.

What was the old IR rule?

The new rule modifies a 2012 reform that allowed teams to activate a single player from the IR once he’d spent at least eight weeks on the inactive list. Originally, these players had to be labeled as “designated to return” candidates at the time they were placed on IR — and the tag could only be used once. In 2016, a rule modification allowed teams to save that tag until a player was ready to take the field once more.

What’s the new IR rule mean?

In 2017, teams will have the same leeway, but with two players instead of one. That way, unlucky teams struck by the injury bug will have more opportunities to field a competitive team as the season winds down. Rather than shutting down a star player for the season if he needs 10 weeks to rehab an injury, teams can now hold out extra hope he’ll return in time for a playoff push.

The rule became a point of contention last fall when the Patriots were forced to put tight end Rob Gronkowski on injured reserve after he suffered a back injury late in the season. Since the team had already recalled third-string passer Jacoby Brissett from the IR a week prior, the designation ended his season, negating any chance of a return should he exceed expectations and heal quickly enough to play during New England’s final march to a Super Bowl title.

What other NFL rules did the NFL approve?

The rule change wasn’t the only one at the NFL’s Spring League Meeting. Overtime during the regular season has been reduced to 10 minutes. Officials also voted to remove one of the cutdown days from the preseason, which will allow teams to carry 90 players into their final preseason game before making the shift down to 53 players. The league also opted to give officials more leeway when it comes to flagging athletes for excessive celebration penalties.