The National Football League players' union has approved a rule change on the eve of the season that will allow one designated player from each team to return from injured reserve instead of sitting out the entire year.
One of the biggest beneficiaries of the change announced Thursday is the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. They have three players whose status is uncertain because of injuries suffered in training camp, with the most obvious being cornerback Terrell Thomas. He aggravated his surgically repaired tight anterior cruciate ligament in late July and has yet to practice.
Under the new rule, one "marquee" player" placed on injured reserve will be able to return to practice after the sixth week of the schedule and to the lineup after the eighth week. That player must be on the 53-man roster after the final pre-season cut, which comes Friday. The player's injury must be one that prevents him from practicing or playing football for six weeks.
"I think it is a great rule in general," said Giants cornerback Michael Coe, who has moved into the starting lineup following injuries to Thomas, Prince Amukamara and Jayron Holsey. "Other sports have that, like baseball, guys go on and come off IR every day, like putting on your shoes."
'This is going to help every team which has an injury and has to do some shuffling.' — Giants cornerback Michael Coe on the NFL's new injured reserve rule
The NFL has never had that. If a player was hurt and was going to be sidelined a month or more at the start of the season, he usually ended up on injured reverse.
"This is going to help every team which has an injury and has to do some shuffling," Coe said. "Guy won't have to miss the whole year."
Besides Thomas, the Giants also have questions about two defensive tackles. Second-year pro Marvin Austin has had back issues most of camp and veteran Shaun Rogers is sidelined with a blood clot in his left leg. A doctor has told him he might be able to play later this season.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin said each club will have to review its roster and choose who to designate. He refused to say who the Giants would select.
"It depends on the team and the injury," he said. "Every injury that is a reasonable length of time I am sure is being considered by all the clubs."
Thomas, who missed the entire 2011 season with a torn ACL, was to visit a doctor on Wednesday to determine whether when he could start running. Coughlin had no information on that visit, and he would not guess how close Thomas was to playing again.
Thomas was not in the locker room Thursday and was not immediately available for comment. Rogers said it was a decision for Giants management.
NFL owners approved two changes to the rules in May: the injured reserve change and moving the league's trading deadline back two weeks to after the games in Week 8.
The union announced it signed off them on Thursday, six days before the regular season kicks off with a game between the Giants and Dallas Cowboys.
Moving the trade deadline to Oct. 30 this season could create more action than in the past, when teams rarely moved players at the deadline.
Since the injured reserve rule was adopted after the cutdown to 75 players, the league and the union have agreed to a transition procedure that permits clubs to return to their 53-player active list one player placed on Reserve/Injured since the start of preseason training camp. This selection must be made by Friday:
Baltimore recently placed Terrell Suggs, last season's defensive player of the year, on the physically unable to perform list, meaning he must sit out at least the first six games. Suggs appeared to fall into the category of the new rule, as well.
"That's a good thing and a bad thing," Giants defensive captain Justin Tuck said. "There are a lot of teams that are going to use that to their advantage, obviously. For the people who do it the right way that can really help a guy because there are parts to the season where a guy just can't get out there and go. Again, if you get a couple of weeks off, you can go, so I see the good."