The National Football League has made it official. In a memo it sent to its clubs this week, the league said that the modified injured reserve rules that were put in place for the 2020 season will continue in 2021.
Under the modified rules, teams may return an unlimited number of players from their Reserve/Injured lists, provided that each returning player:
- was on the team’s initial 53-man roster on September 1
- has been on the Reserve/Injured list for a minimum of three games or postseason bye weeks
- is returned to the active roster within 21 days of being designated for a return to practice
Before 2020, the minimum number of games a player was required to miss was six. In addition, a team could designate only two players for return from the Reserve/Injured list each season.
While these rule modifications were made in order to give teams more roster flexibility during the coronavirus pandemic, they were widely hailed as a needed change. Extending the 2020 changes to the following season is a sign that they could become a permanent part of the NFL landscape.
Back in July, it was reported that the league and the NFL Players Association were expected to also extend 2020’s special practice squad rules to 2021. These changes were also popular — but so far, their extension to 2021 has not been made official.