NFL passes Bills' proposed change to injured-reserve rules

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- NFL owners passed a change to the league's bylaws Wednesday, proposed by the Buffalo Bills, that will give teams more flexibility in deciding which player they designate to return from injured reserve.

The new bylaw will allow teams to choose one player to return to practice among their players already on injured reserve, provided that player has spent at least six weeks on injured reserve. That player would then be able to return to the active roster and play in a game two weeks later.

The NFL's previous rule, adopted in 2012, required teams to designate the player they wanted to return from injured reserve at the time they placed him on the list. That player would then be eligible to return to practice in six weeks and play two weeks later.

"It's a good idea by Buffalo," competition committee chairman Rich McKay said Wednesday. "It will serve the clubs well."

The Bills could have benefited from the rule change last season. When safety Aaron Williams was placed on injured reserve last October, the Bills had to make a decision immediately whether to place him on season-ending injured reserve or to make him their one player designated to return. Williams, who had an uncertain timetable to return from a neck injury, was designated to return but never was activated to the 53-man roster.

Under the new rule, the Bills would not have been required to make a decision on Williams or any other of their injured reserve players last season. Instead, the team could have decided in late November, for instance, that tight end MarQueis Gray -- who went on injured reserve in early October -- would be their designated player to return. He would then have been able to resume practicing and then play two weeks later.