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NFL changes key injured reserve, practice squad rules, offseason cutdown dates

The NFL is permanently adapting and/or expanding rules changes they implemented due to COVID-19.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The NFL makes changes to its rulebook every offseason, and with organized team activities (OTAs) underway, the league finalized a few key rules that apply to teams’ rosters for the 2022 season, and in some cases, beyond.

Return from IR/NFI lists

The first of those rules deals with the timeline for when players are eligible to return from injured reserve, non-football injury, or non-football illness lists. Previously, players were not eligible to return until eight weeks had passed, but an addendum was made to the CBA in 2020 to account for the impact of COVID-19 on rosters and players were eligible to return after just three games missed.

The new 2022 rule adjusts that timeframe to four games elapsed before players can return.

Additionally, the original IR-return rules only allowed teams to use this designation on two players per season, but two years ago, that limit was uncapped. In 2022, the league has re-introduced a cap but increased the number to eight players per season.

Also of note, a player is eligible to return from injured reserve twice in a single season, but he will count against the allotment of eight each time.

Roster reduction ahead of regular season

Currently, teams are allowed to carry up to a maximum of 90-players on their roster and will be able to through the summer months and into fall training camp. But, once teams begin playing preseason games, they must reduce their rosters on the following schedule:

  • Tuesday, August 16, rosters are reduced from 90 to 85 players
  • Tuesday, August 23, rosters are reduced from 85 to 80 players
  • Tuesday, August 30, rosters are reduced from 80 to 53 players

Once rosters are reduced to 53 players, there is a brief waiver period for teams to claim released players, and on Wednesday, August 31, teams can begin to assemble their practice squads.

Practice squad capacity, elevation designations

The CBA originally called for a gradual expansion of the practice squad, increasing from 10 players in 2019 to 12 players in 2020, and then 14 players in 2021. The COVID-19 addendum intervened to increase practice squads to 16 players in 2020 and 2021 in order to shorten the onboarding process and make players available quicker.

On Wednesday, the league and NFLPA agreed to maintain the 16-player practice squads permanently.

Additionally, teams will continue to be able to elevate practice squad players to the active roster on game days. Previously players were only allowed to be elevated twice per season before needing to be signed to the active roster to play in a third game. Now, a new adjustment has been applied allowing players three game day elevations per season.

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