In a day where the Pittsburgh Steelers acquired cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon in a trade from the Seattle Seahawks, the player who started the 2021 NFL preseason for the Steelers at slot cornerback is officially with another franchise. Safety Antoine Brooks Jr., the Steelers’ sixth-round draft pick from the 2020 NFL draft, was placed on the Waived/Injured List 10 days ago and had reached an injury settlement with the team recently. For this reason, Brooks was eligible to sign with any other NFL franchise and has been added to the Los Angeles Rams practice squad. This per Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic:
Rams practice squad additions, per team: DB Antoine Brooks, RB Buddy Howell— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) September 3, 2021
The injury settlement with Antoine Brooks was reported by cbssports.com on Thursday.
Brooks will be eligible to sign elsewhere in the league this season, as a result of his injury settlement. The 2020 sixth-round pick appeared in four games as a rookie.
When a player reaches an injury settlement with a team rather than end up on their Reserve/Injured List, they are not permitted to return to their original team until three weeks after the end of the settlement date. A more thorough explanation was given by overthecap.com in a 2013 article. Note that with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the six week period mentioned here has changed to three weeks.
Contrary to what some believe a settlement is not a negotiation of price. It’s really a negotiation of weeks. When a minor injury occurs a determination is made for weeks that the player will miss due to injury. The options would be to hold the player until he is healthy enough to be released or to have the two sides agree right away as to the amount of weeks that the injury should keep the player sidelined.
Once the weeks are agreed upon the team simply agrees to pay the player as if he was on the roster for those weeks. Teams and players have a 5 day window to agree to this settlement. Once the settlement occurs the player is again released from the team (in most cases exposed to waivers), except in this situation the player can return to the team, with a bit of a catch. The player is not allowed to return to the team until the length of the settlement passes plus another 6 weeks.
So by the Steelers reaching an injury settlement with Brooks, he was free to sign with any NFL franchise. Even if the Steelers wish to bring Brooks back to their roster, they are not permitted to do so until three weeks after the end of the injury settlement date they agreed upon. Unfortunately, the exact injury settlement is not something that I have found to be disclosed at this time.
In his rookie season with the Steelers, Brooks did not initially make the 53-man roster and landed on the Steelers’ practice squad. After being utilized as a practice squad elevation and eventually signed to the 53-man roster, Brooks appeared in four games for the Steelers where he had two tackles.
For the 2021 preseason, Brooks played 23 snaps and started the game as the Steelers slot cornerback in their opening contest against the Dallas Cowboys in Canton, Ohio. Playing 18 of those snaps as a slot defender according to Pro Football Focus, Brooks was targeted one time and did not give up a reception. In the game, Brooks was credited with two quarterback hurries, a tackle, and a fumble recovery while being given a PFF score of 81.5. Unfortunately, it was his only action of the preseason as afterword he was dealing with injury.
As long as Brooks remains on an NFL practice squad, it is not impossible for the Steelers to sign him back to the 53-man roster should they choose to do so. But as stated before, this cannot be done until three weeks have passed after the end of the agreed injury settlement.
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