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Will Dallas Cowboys Use New "Designated For Return" Injured Reserve Rule?

The Cowboys can place one player on IR and have him return at any time during the season. But they can't do that before next Tuesday. We look at some candidates for the IR exception.

Photographic proof that Matt Johnson (37) has played in a football game for the Cowboys
Photographic proof that Matt Johnson (37) has played in a football game for the Cowboys
Jason Miller

Last year, the NFLPA agreed to an NFL proposal on allow an injured reserve exception: The"Designated For Return" IR exception will allow teams to bring back one player to the active roster from injured reserve at any time during the season. Previously, any player placed on IR was automatically out for the season.

With the new IR rule, the Cowboys could bring one of their currently injured players back a little later in the season, which would possibly give them a little more roster flexibility. However, only players who are placed on the Reserve/Injured list after 4:00 p.m., New York time, next Tuesday, September 3, or anytime thereafter, are eligible to be reactivated at a later point in the season.

So for the roster cuts due later today, the IR exception won't free up an extra spot. Where the new rule could come in handy though is if the Cowboys sign a player to their 53-man roster after Tuesday. Then they could move one of their injured player to IR and bring him back later. But they can only bring back one player from IR during the season, so that one exception should be used wisely.

The Cowboys already have Jay Ratliff on the PUP list, so they're unlikely to use the designation on him. But there are a few players who may be options for the "Designated For Return" list:

  • Matt Johnson: Johnson's injury has turned out to take longer to heal than the Cowboys had initially expected. But the Cowboys remain high on his potential. Designating him for return would allow Johnson to heal properly without costing the Cowboys a roster spot initially.
  • Nate Livings: Nobody really knows the extent of Livings' knee injury, but there has been talk of a degenerative condition, so Livings could easily end up on season-ending IR. If the prognosis is good for his return at some point, and the Cowboys don't find another veteran guard over the course of the next week, Livings may also be a candidate for the IR exception.
  • Demetress Bell: While Bell didn't look very good against the Texans, he did look healthy, so the Cowboys would likely be skirting the edges of legality by moving him to IR, but it might be an option that gives Bell more time to get into NFL shape.

Who would be your candidate for the "Designated For Return" IR Spot?


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