Yesterday I praised the NFL for their elimination of chop blocks from the game entirely. Today another NFL rule change has been announced that I want to praise: the elimination of the “designated to return” list.
If you remember, each NFL team was allowed to bring back one player from injured reserve after being sidelined for essentially half the season. The catch to the rule was you had to designate a specific player before they went on injured reserve. So if Player X broke his leg in week 1 and Player Y broke his collarbone in week 2, you had to make a choice as to who you thought would heal in a given time, and which player was more important. The new rule eliminates that decision at the start.
Under the new rule teams will be able to activate any player after having been on the injured reserve list for six weeks. Under our previous scenario, that could be Player X or Player Y, it wouldn’t matter. Teams are still limited to one player per season, but they don’t have to make a difficult decision earlier than necessary.
Who knows, maybe a player heals far quicker than expected and is ready for the playoffs. Under the previous rule that player would have likely already been written off at the beginning of the season and have no chance to contribute to his team’s success. Now the team will be able to monitor his progress and make a decision in real time without relying on a patch work of medical opinions and educated guesses.
It also means maybe a player you expected to come back won’t be the player to return. Last season that scenario could have unfolded in Dallas. Imagine for a second — however unrealistic it might be — that Brandon Weeden had led the Cowboys to a 9-2 record and played like the former 1st round pick he is. Would the Cowboys have forced Romo back on the field and subjected him to another injury? Possibly not.
In the end, information is king. With this change in the rule teams now will have that information to evaluate, rather than trusting some gut feeling or hope.