The Buffalo Bills have been unable to dodge significant injuries in recent weeks.
With cornerback Stephon Gilmore (fractured wrist) and offensive lineman Doug Legursky (knee) already out for several weeks, the Bills' depth was thinned further on Sunday, when wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (fractured hand) and cornerback Ron Brooks (fractured foot) were hurt in a loss to the New England Patriots.
Head coach Doug Marrone said he doesn't think the injuries to Goodwin or Brooks are season-ending, but for Buffalo, a numbers game starts to come into play.
With kicker Dustin Hopkins (right groin strain) and safety Jairus Byrd (foot) dealing with less serious ailments, the Bills are approaching the point where they might need to make tough calls in order to field a healthy 46-man roster on game day.
Six injured players would leave the Bills with just one inactive to declare, leaving little margin for further injuries. If Byrd or Hopkins can't return in the next week or so, Buffalo might need to look at "short-term" injured reserve for either Brooks or Goodwin.
The Bills used the injured reserve with a designation to return on Brooks when he suffered a fractured foot last season. The rule allows one player per season to return within that season, after sitting out at least eight weeks. The designation would also clear a roster spot.
Teams must gamble when deciding whether to use the designation on an injured player. If the Bills, for instance, use it on Goodwin or Brooks, they would be unable to use it if another, more important player suffers a serious, but not season-ending, injury in their next game.
Marrone said Monday that he doesn't think the Bills will use it on Goodwin or Brooks.
"I don’t foresee that," Marrone said. "Going into this thing I don’t see it as long-term IR, I see them being out for a while and then coming back."
The task for Bills general manager Doug Whaley, though, is maintaining roster flexibility and depth across positions as insurance for future injuries. His hands are tied if Gilmore, Legursky, Goodwin, and Brooks are all on the active roster but not playing for a month or longer.