In recent years, due largely in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL had adjusted the ways injured reserve and practice squads work. Many of those changes have been positively received, and are now being updated for the 2022 season.
When the NFL instituted players returning from IR, they had to spend at least eight weeks on injured reserve. That was cut to three weeks in recent years, to help teams keep rosters stocked during the pandemic. As the league shifts away from COVID protocols, the duration is once again being extended, but by just one game to four games. That means a player placed on IR after Week 1 could realistically return as early as Week 6.
The league is also resetting the limit of players who can be activated in a season. Teams will be able to bring back up to eight players over the course of the year. In addition, players can now return from IR twice in a single season, something that was not in the rules before. Each reactivation will count separately against the eight player limit.
Looking at the new practice squad rules, teams will be able to keep up to 16 players on the practice squad in 2022. That includes up to six veterans with no accrued seasons limits – those details can be found here.
In addition, the league is increasing the number of times players can be elevated from the practice squad – an option that was originally put in place for the 2020 season. For the last two years, each practice squad player could be added to the gameday roster twice a year without being added to the 53-man roster or subjected to waivers. That number will increase to three this season, with up to two players allowed to be elevated per game. As was the case in the past, those limits will not apply to the postseason.
Of course, the Patriots have some time before they need to worry about either IR or the practice squad. But with this increased roster flexibility, more players will have a chance to contribute throughout the season. That means the battles further down the roster in spring practices and training camp should hold more relevance as the initial roster picture comes together.
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