During the 2016 offseason, the NFL owners agreed to modify the rules pertaining to the Injured Reserve along with the timeline associated with injury settlements. Specifically, the requirement to designate a player for return is no longer in place and the number of weeks after an injury settlement to resign a player has been split in half.
Injured Reserve & Designated to Return
Prior to this change, if a team placed a player onto their respective Injured Reserve list and wanted to use the DTR (designated to return) title, the team had to make that designation in conjunction with placing the player on Reserve. Now, the team does not have to make that specific announcement when placing a player on Reserve. This will allow the team to make the decision based on the player’s rehab progression, especially if the team has multiple players on Injured Reserve. A player is eligible to return to practice after six weeks of being on reserve and eligible to be activated to the 53-man roster two weeks after that. There is a caveat to who is eligible for return: the player must be a part of the final 53-man roster at the start of the regular season. Players who were placed on Injured Reserve during training camp will not be eligible for return.
At this time, the Houston Texans have eight players on Injured Reserve, none of whom would be eligible for return during the regular season. All eight of the players were on placed on reserve before making the 53-man final roster. This allows the Texans to make short term roster adjustments during the season should a player become injured.
Resigning Players After Injury Settlements
Injury settlements are common for players who do not have long term injuries but have been placed on Injured Reserve. The player could be healthy in eight weeks but may not be able to return for the season after being placed on reserve. The team and the player could then negotiate an injury settlement (payment) to release the player from the team’s reserve roster. The settlement could be five weeks of salary payment, for instance, and the player becomes a free agent, able to sign with any of the 31 other teams.
Under the old rule, the player would be unable to resign with the original team for a term of six weeks after the settlement period. If the player received a five week settlement, add on the six weeks and the player would be unable to resign with the original team for eleven weeks. This is in place to prevent teams from releasing players from their reserve list and immediately re-signing to their active roster. The player could sign with another team immediately, once healthy enough to pass a physical.
The new rule reduces that waiting period to three weeks. For example, the Texans could agree to an injury settlement with PK Ka’imi Fairbairn for $58,764 to release Fairbairn from the Injured Reserve list. That amount equals 3 weeks of salary. The Texans would eligible to re-sign Fairbairn to their active roster in 6 weeks.