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NFL Proposes New Injured Reserve Exemption Rule, One Year Too Late For The Rams

The NFL is proposing a change to its injured reserve system that would have been a  real help to the St. Louis Rams in 2011.
The NFL is proposing a change to its injured reserve system that would have been a real help to the St. Louis Rams in 2011.

On Wednesday, the NFL competition committee pulled the veil off a baker's dozen proposed rule changes. Player safety and instant replay changes have dominated most of the conversation about the rule changes, but it was another proposed rule change that piqued my interest as I sat and listened to competition committee chairman Rich McKay explain the league's proposals. Specifically, it was a change to the league bylaw concerning the injured reserve list that would allow a team to designate a player on IR to return after eight weeks.

Talk about timing, the Rams could have really used that rule last season. In fact, it might have altered the team's fortunes to a certain extent.

Under the current system, players placed on injured reserve are done for the season, even if they could return from their injury before the season's end.

The rule would allow teams to designate one player on injured reserve to return after eight weeks and start practicing after six. That player would have to be on the roster for the first week of the season. That means a player injured in training camp or even in the first game of the season could be designated for return.

I can think of two players from the Rams' 2011 roster that would have benefited significantly from that rule.

Second-year cornerback Jerome Murphy fractured his ankle in early August. The injury required surgery, but he might have returned before the end of the season. He was not eligible for the PUP list because he began training camp on the team's active roster. Such an injury can take up to 10 weeks of recovery time, depending on the severity. The Rams waited until the very last day of August to put him on IR, as they got a better sense of how much recovery time was involved in the injury.

Under the proposed rule change, the Rams could have put Murphy on IR following the first week of the season. Depending on the severity of the injury, he could have returned around Week 8 or 9, if you buy the 10 weeks of recovery time and the fact that he had a few weeks in August to start the recovery process.

Getting Murphy back in the middle part of the season would have been a huge help for the Rams defense. By that point, the Rams had lost both Ron Bartell and Bradley Fletcher. Murphy's presence would have upgraded a secondary that was relying solely on Justin King and Al Harris, who was suffered a season-ending injury in Week 10. The hard hitting Murphy might have also been a help to the struggling run defense.

Danny Amendola might have also benefited from this rule, perhaps even changing the fortunes of the Rams' offense.

Amendola dislocated his elbow in the season opener. There was some controversy as he rushed back into the mix, working his way back to practice. Whether the team rushed him or allowed him to rush the team, it was too soon. Amendola made the injury worse in practice by tearing his triceps. He was added to IR in early October.

With the new proposal for an injured reserve exception, a more cautious Rams team might have sent him to IR following the season's first game, allowed him to more fully heal and had him back in time for Week 11 a the Rams were coming off an uncharacteristic 2-1 stretch after adding Brandon Lloyd to the mix.

Amendola's return would not have helped Sam Bradford, who suffered the high ankle sprain that ruined his season earlier, but it might have changed the complexion of the Rams offense, giving it two viable receivers.

Would that it were. Would that it were.

Owners still have to approve the proposed rule changes, but I have a hard time believing any owner would be opposed to the possibility of bringing back a marquee player rather than force them out for an entire season.