After what looked to be a serious injury to the leg of Desmond Bishop in the Packers' preseason loss to the Chargers last night, the starting inside linebacker could be a candidate for the new injured reserve (I.R.) rule that's going into effect this season in the NFL.
Under the new rule, one player on every NFL team is eligible to come off injured reserve after six week to resume practicing and can then return to game action after eight weeks.
It used to be that once a football player was placed on injured reserve, his season was done. Teams would carefully determine whether it was worth placing a player on I.R. and signing a new player as opposed to keeping him on the active roster in hopes that he could come back at some point later in the season.
Critics would point to baseball's disabled list in which players are able to come back after 15 or 60 days, but be replaced by another player on the roster in the meantime. The NFL has tried to avoid an football version of the disabled list so teams couldn't take advantage of the rule by essentially keeping more players on their roster under contractual control.
The new rule this year is an attempt to compromise with one single player eligible to return at some point later in the season.
One simplified case study would come from the Packers' Super Bowl season in 2010 when running back Ryan Grant was injured in Week 1 and placed on injured reserve, reluctantly ending his season. Grant maintained he was healthy enough to come back by late in the season, and under the NFL rule, would have been eligible to do so.
Teams obviously will take a wait-and-see approach to injured reserve because of the possibility that more injuries will happen in the next several weeks. They'll also take the severity of injuries into account.
At this point, it's difficult to tell whether Bishop will be lost for the season or lost for a couple months.
The extent of Bishop's injury is still unknown. Head coach Mike McCarthy acknowledged during last night's press conference that Bishop injured his knee and possibly his hamstring as well, but couldn't offer any more in the immediate aftermath of the game.
Don't expect the Packers to make a decision on the future of Bishop anytime soon, but keep in mind that he's a candidate to return later in the season in an avenue that wouldn't have been available to him just a year ago.
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