NFL reporter Adam Caplin listed the specifics of the new league rules concerning IR and the trade deadlines the league and NFLPA agreed to Thursday.
The most important piece of information he reported concerns the definition of a "major injury." Per the rule, a player placed on IR with a major injury is eligible to return to the roster in-season. Major injury, as reported by Caplan, is defined as "an injury that renders the player unable to practice or play football for at least six weeks (42 calendar days) from the date of injury."
Another piece of new information pertains to official designation of the player, and the team's intention to possibly exercise this option. "Each team may reactivate only one player placed on Reserve/Injured after 4:00 p.m., New York time, on Tuesday, September 4. That player must be "designated for return" at the time the club places him on Reserve/Injured, and such designation shall appear on that day's Personnel Notice."
Essentially, that creates something of a "disabled list" for the NFL. Placing players on the disabled list in MLB means a player is off the roster for a certain time period (15 or 60 days), but will return, and the roster is automatically updated to include that player. In the NFL now, a player must be "designated for return," so there will be two different kinds of IR transactions.
In Steelers terms, FB/TE David Johnson tore his ACL in Pittsburgh's first preseason game. Proper rehabilitation for that takes a minimum of nine months, meaning he wouldn't be able to play this season. Johnson would have simply been placed on IR, whereas David DeCastro could be placed on IR and designated for return.
DeCastro would be eligible for a return to the roster, where Johnson would not.
One provision not released when our initial report ran was a team's ability to add one player they had previously placed this preseason on the IR back to their roster, thus giving them the opportunity to qualify for this rule.
This means, should the Steelers choose to do so, they could add Johnson back to the active roster, and, on Sept. 4, place him back on the IR, making him eligible to return later in the season.
The Steelers wouldn't do that, considering the severity of Johnson's injury, but he's the lone Steelers player on IR.
This rule does help a team like Green Bay and LB Desmond Bishop, who was placed on IR before today (hamstring), and could potentially be healthy enough to return this season. The Packers can now place him back on the roster, keep him there until Sept. 4, then choose to place him back on IR and designate him for return.