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2022 NFL roster cuts: How does injured reserve work, and what does it mean for the Patriots?

Patriots 53-man roster: Position-by-position analysis after cutdown day

NFL: AUG 19 Preseason - Panthers at Patriots Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Cutdown day is in the past, but the New England Patriots still have the opportunity to make additional roster moves before their Week 1 matchup with the Miami Dolphins. Starting on Wednesday at 4:01 p.m. ET, teams can move players to the injured reserve list and still have them eligible to return at some point during the season.

The NFL updated its injured reserve rules for 2022, so let’s break down how it will come into play for the Patriots.

What is Injured Reserve?

Injured reserve is basically a way to hold onto players who suffered some sort of injury that would keep them out for an extended period of time.

How did Injured Reserve rules evolve through the years?

Players were not allowed to return from injured reserve all the way until the 2012 season. It started off as one player being allowed to return, and that number later went up to two. A player originally would have to miss eight weeks in order to be eligible to return.

The most recent NFL/NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement changed things up in 2020. Teams were then allowed to return three players off of the IR. In 2021 these rules changed again due to Covid-19, with teams being permitted to bring as many players back as they want as long as they missed three weeks of play and were placed on IR after the final cutdown day.

We have seen another change to the rule for the 2022 season, however.

What has changed for 2022?

There are three basic changes compared to the previous year’s rules:

  1. Teams are allowed to return a maximum of eight players from the IR during the season.
  2. A player can be designated to return a maximum of two times during the season, with both counting towards the team’s grand total of eight designations allowed.
  3. Players are eligible to return from the IR after four games have elapsed since being placed on the list.

Players who were placed on the IR before the roster cutdown deadline are ineligible to return this season. Patriots who fall under this category are defensive linemen Ronnie Perkins and Henry Anderson, wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson, and cornerback Joejuan Williams. New England additionally reached an injury settlement with cornerback Malcolm Butler, releasing him from injured reserve earlier this month.

Starting at 4:01 p.m. ET, all players that are on the Patriots’ 53-man roster and practice squad will be eligible to return if injuries force them to have a stint on the IR this year.

How does this impact the Patriots?

The Patriots did not place wide receiver Tyquan Thornton or running back Ty Montgomery onIR before the cutdown deadline despite both players dealing with injuries. Thornton is almost a guarantee to be sent there with a broken collarbone. The extent of Montgomery’s injury is unknown, although head coach Bill Belichick sounded optimistic earlier this week.

The Patriots could look to open up a roster spot by moving one of these guys (likely Thornton) to IR and add another player. The rookie will not be ready to play for at least the first couple of weeks so regardless of if he is placed on IR or not, the Patriots will only have four healthy wide receivers on their roster heading into Week 1.

Tight end is another position that the Patriots lack depth at as they only have two rostered. Do not be surprised to see them bring in a wide receiver or tight end if the speedster ends up on IR in the coming days.

If a player is placed on the IR, they will still count towards the Patriots’ salary cap.