New injured reserve rules, trade deadline could help many NFL teams

After a lockout that lasted far too long into 2011 and a seemingly interminable string of labor dust-ups since the new collective bargaining agreement was ratified last August, the NFL and NFLPA have finally agreed on something – and it could be of great benefit to many teams and players.

On Wednesday, it was announced that the league will alter rules regarding injured reserve, and move the trade deadline back from Week 6 to Week 8. The trade deadline could be a major fix for contending teams looking to pick up talent from other teams interested in off-loading contracts or finding new environments for disenchanted superstars (read: Maurice Jones-Drew). But it's the new injured reserve rules that could substantially alter the NFL landscape.

Previously, any player put on IR was lost for the entire season. Now, if a player is hurt and put on injured reserve after Sept. 4, that player may return to the active roster eight weeks after the IR designation, and the player must be on the IR list for at least six weeks. In addition, a player must be "designated for return" at the time of his IR classification, which means that a team must anticipate a player's ability to return midseason. Teams can't just hope their key injured player will recover in time.

Several teams, many of them potential playoff contenders, could reap the rewards of this rule.

The Pittsburgh Steelers nearly lost rookie guard David DeCastro for the season due to a knee injury suffered in a Week 3 win against the Buffalo Bills, but stopped short of putting DeCastro on IR after it was determined that he had not torn multiple ligaments in his knee. The Green Bay Packers could similarly see linebacker Desmond Bishop return to the field late in the season, the Cincinnati Bengals might get center Kyle Cook back in the fold, and the Seattle Seahawks may actually see injury-prone right tackle James Carpenter under the same provisions, should they choose to go that route.

New York Giants cornerback Terrell Thomas, who re-injured his surgically repaired right ACL in training camp, could also return, and the team that could see the biggest push is the Baltimore Ravens.

''I think it is a great rule in general,'' said Giants cornerback Michael Coe, whose current starting role follows injuries to Thomas, Prince Amukamara and Jayron Holsey. ''Other sports have that, like baseball, guys go on and come off IR every day, like putting on your shoes.''

''This is going to help every team which has an injury and has to do some shuffling,'' Coe told the Associated Press. ''Guys won't have to miss the whole year.''

Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Terrell Suggs, who suffered an Achilles tendon injury in early May, might see action as well. Suggs is currently on the team's reserve/physically unable to perform List, which would keep him out the first six weeks of the season. Suggs has said that he'll be ready to go in November, and the new IR rule would give the Ravens additional flexibility with the man who racked up 14 sacks in 2011 and proved to be the cornerstone of their excellent defense.