The NFL Players Association has agreed to push the trade deadline back by two weeks until after Week 8 of the regular season, and also OK’d a rule change that will allow one player per team to return from the injured reserve to the active roster and play that season.
Previously, a player designated for the injured reserve list would be automatically ineligible to play for the balance of the season. Under the amended terms, a team can designate one player who has been placed on injured reserved to return later in the season. That player, however, must be on the team's final 53-man roster (finalized on Friday), and also will not be eligible to practice until after the sixth week of the season, and won’t be able to play until after the eighth week of the season.
Because this rule was not agreed upon until Thursday, NFL teams have been granted an exemption for the 2012 season in which they can designate a player that has already been placed on the injured reserve list as a player to return later in this season. This designation must be made by Friday. As an example, the Patriots could designate linebacker Dane Fletcher, who was placed on the injured reserve list earlier this preseason after suffering a major knee injury, as their player to return.
It would appear that this new injured reserve rule could impact the Patriots in one way or another this season. Although we do not know the specifics of injuries to players like Visanthe Shiancoe, Nick McDonald and Tracy White, all three are players who are ineligible to be placed on the PUP list, and could bring value to the team down the road. It would seem plausible for the team to designate one of these three players as their player who would be eligible to return from injured reserve, if in fact their injuries are severe enough that they will not be able to return to the field before the start of the regular season.