WR Leonard Hankerson passes physical with Patriots then practices

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of the notable developments over the last two weeks for the New England Patriots is how they've claimed two players who had been waived off injured reserve by other teams -- cornerback Leonard Johnson (Buccaneers) and receiver Leonard Hankerson (Falcons).

On Thursday, Hankerson practiced with the Patriots for the first time.

Some have asked the question, "How can the Patriots claim a player who has been waived off IR?"

Here is how it was explained to me.

When a team places a player on injured reserve, there are three categories:

1. IR-designated to return

2. IR-minor (less than six weeks projected recovery)

3. IR-major (six weeks or more projected recovery)

When a player is placed on IR with a minor designation, that is usually an indication that the projected recovery is less than the remaining time in the season, and it leaves open the opportunity for the team to release the player once he's healthy and not have to pay him (e.g. like the Patriots did with DE/TE Jake Bequette). The key is that the player has to be healthy, or it could lead to a grievance.

This was the general dynamic in play with Johnson and Hankerson, and how the Patriots are benefiting from other teams' economic decisions to waive players off their IR list.

Elsewhere at practice Thursday, reporters didn't spot safety Devin McCourty (high ankle sprain) or linebackers Jonathan Freeny (right hand) and Eric Martin.

If Martin is released, it could be an indication that the team plans to fill the spot with a different position. On a related note, veteran running back Steven Jackson's official workout with the team was scheduled to take place earlier on Thursday.