GREEN BAY, Wis. – The NFL and NFLPA agreed to revised injured reserve rules on Wednesday, with eight players allowed to return to action during the upcoming season.
According to a memo posted by NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, a player designated for return from injured reserve is eligible to return to practice or the 53-man roster after four games have elapsed since the date he was placed on injured reserve. That’s games, not weeks, so the team won’t get a break in the case of a bye.
Last year, it was a minimum three-game absence.
A player can return from IR twice per season, but each instance counts against the team's eight designations.
Injured reserve used to mean a permanent ending to the season. In 2012, the NFL and NFLPA agreed that one player could return. In 2016, the Packers infamously used their lone designation on cornerback Makinton Dorleant instead of cornerback Sam Shields or running back Eddie Lacy. In 2017, the rule was expanded to allow two players to be designated for return. That increased to three players in 2020.
Last season, there were unlimited designations for return. The Packers wound up activating seven players off IR, including Randall Cobb, Za’Darius Smith and Whitney Mercilus before the playoff game and Josh Myers, Jaire Alexander, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Dominique Dafney during the regular season.
The NFL and union also agreed to stick with 16-man practice squads. The practice squads can include more veteran players than past seasons. As stated in the memo, practice squads can include a “maximum of six free agent players per club with no limitations as to their number of accrued seasons.” That will give teams the ability to add a veteran player and allow him to learn the ropes before getting added to the roster.
In another key change, practice squad players may be elevated to the gameday roster up to three times. Last year, there was a two-elevation limit. After the third elevation, any further elevations will necessitate that player being added to the 53-man roster.
The NFL also outlined the start of training camp. Day 1 is arrival day and physicals. Day 2 through Day 5 are OTA-style practices in which no live contact is permitted. After an off-day, players can dress in pads and teams can conduct full-contract practices on Day 7. Day 7 is limited to 1 hour, 45 minutes, Day 8 is limited to 2 hours and Day 9 and all practices thereafter are limited to 2 1/2 hours.
Teams can’t practice in pads for more than three consecutive days, and there can be only three stretches of three consecutive days in pads. In total, teams can practice in pads 16 times during training camp.