The IR rule and Redskins running backs

August, 23, 2012
8/23/12
11:53
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Obviously, the league's inability to agree with the players' union on a rule change involving injured reserve will affect many teams. But we don't deal with many teams on this blog. We deal with four of them. And the one that sprang to mind when I saw the news that the IR rule wasn't changing was the Washington Redskins.

The Redskins, as you know if you're a regular here, have a weird situation with their running backs. Starter Tim Hightower is coming off ACL surgery and may not be ready for the start of the season. Even if he's ready, he may not be 100 percent. Had the owners' proposed rule change been approved, the Redskins could have put Hightower on injured reserve and still been able to bring him back for the second week of the season. Under the current rule, which is not changing, a player put on IR before the start of the season is out for the year. So the Redskins would have to decide whether it's worth keeping a roster spot for Hightower or move on without him.

Complicating matters is the health of second-year back Roy Helu, who's one of the Redskins' options for replacing Hightower as their starting running back. Helu is a player the Redskins like, but they have concerns about his ability to stay healthy. He is currently doing nothing to assuage those concerns as he sits out of practice and preseason games with two sore Achilles' tendons. That leaves the running back chores in the hands of second-year man Evan Royster and rookie Alfred Morris. And while the Redskins like both of them and could go with either as the starter to begin the season, that doesn't resolve the matter of what to do with Hightower and Helu.

Can the Redskins afford to keep all four backs on the roster if two of them aren't going to be healthy to start the season? It's hard to imagine, especially with the crowd they have at positions like wide receiver and tight end, and the injury questions they have on the offensive line. If Hightower and Helu can't show them within the next two weeks that they're at least able to offer something, one of them may end up cut or on IR for the season. Or they may end up keeping both and having to cut someone like tight end Chris Cooley in a roster crunch.

Either way, the Redskins aren't the only team in this boat. But the failure to get the rule changed will impact their offensive roster decisions as the season draws near.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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