The Houston Texans wide receiver group took a hit back on Wednesday August 2nd, 2017 when Will Fuller landed hard on the ground and breaking his collarbone. Initial reports stated the injury would require a 2-3 month rehab period before returning to the team. Questions started coming in concerning when the team will place Fuller on Reserve/Injured (IR) and would Fuller be a candidate for short term return from injured reserve.
Earlier in 2017 the NFL owners agreed to a rule change eliminating the training camp roster cut down to 75 players; in the past this would happen after the third preseason game. Now teams will have the ability to carry all 90 players through the 4 preseason games before completing a big roster reduction to 53 players on September 2nd.
The roster cut down period to 75 players was also the time period that teams were allowed to designate non-vested players directly onto the IR list without placing the players on waivers. With this cut down period eliminated, teams will have to wait until the final cut down to 53 players to place non-vested players directly onto IR. Will Fuller is considered to be a non-vested player as he does not have 4 years of accrued service.
Based on the time frame for Fuller’s injury the Texans could utilize the short term return designation from IR. For the 2017 league year the team will be able to use this designation twice versus only once in the past. For any player to be available as a short term return designation, the player would need to be on the initial 53 man roster. Let’s assume the Texans plan to place Fuller on IR and use the short term return designation.
On September 2nd by no later than 3 PM the Texas will be required to trim their roster down to 53 players for the active roster, at which time the team can place Will Fuller directly onto IR without using one of the 53 roster spots. The team does not need to make the designation on the front end when placing Fuller on IR, rather now can wait until Fuller is ready to start practicing again.
Fuller will need to spend a minimum of 6 regular season weeks on IR before he can start practicing; which would be the 7th week of the regular season which is the bye week. Fuller will practice for two weeks becoming eligible to return to the active roster after the 8th week. This would make Fuller available to be activated on the 9th week of the season against the Indianapolis Colts.
If Fuller’s rehab is not going well then the team can opt to activate Fuller later in the season; or leave Fuller on IR for the remainder of the season.