The Packers placed Aaron Rodgers on injured reserve on Tuesday, his comeback from a broken collarbone having lasted just one game. Not coincidentally, the Packers had just been eliminated from the playoff race; shutting Rodgers down certainly makes sense, as risking long-term injury for two meaningless games is pointless.
However, that doesn’t mean Green Bay was entitled to put Rodgers on injured reserve.
As this report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter notes, the Packers had utilized the NFL’s injured reserve rules allowing two players to be designated as able to return if their injuries will be long-term but not season-ending. That means that to go back onto IR, Rodgers would have to have suffered a new injury; without that a player can be put on IR, but he technically would have to be released (!) upon his return.
And other teams aren’t happy about this. Here’s Schefter to explain:
Multiple teams complained to the NFL last week that the Packers violated the rules regarding players who are eligible to be placed on injured reserve — and that Green Bay should have to release quarterback Aaron Rodgers as a result, league sources told ESPN.
NFL rules stipulate that a player needs to have suffered a new injury that would sideline him at least six weeks to be placed on injured reserve. If that is not the case, the team is obligated to release the player once he is healthy.
Rodgers was activated off injured reserve and played last Sunday against the Carolina Panthers but came out of the game because he was “sore,” according to Packers coach Mike McCarthy.
But Green Bay did not announce its decision to place Rodgers back on injured reserve until Tuesday, after the Packers had been eliminated from a potential postseason spot.
Had the Atlanta Falcons lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night, keeping alive Green Bay’s playoff chances, it’s possible Rodgers could have played Saturday night against the Minnesota Vikings. But the Packers opted to shut him down, which teams complained was a violation of NFL rules.
As Schefter later notes, the idea the league will force the Packers to release Rodgers is probably a non-starter:
If Rodgers didn’t suffer a new injury but was placed back on injured reserve anyway, NFL rules stipulate that the Packers would have to release him — which nobody expects will happen. It is why multiple teams raised the issue. Teams wanted to know why the Packers were being granted immunity.
but it’s still odd to have a team flout the rules, and it makes sense other franchises aren’t pleased. There are a few teams in particular (*cough Dallas and New England cough*) who are perhaps most likely to be at the forefront any time the league office doesn’t throw the book at another team for violating rules.
And it is dumb! The Packers brought this on themselves; they could have simply deactivated Rodgers for the final two games of the year. Instead, they decided getting that one extra roster spot was worth annoying the rest of the league in a time when a few powerful teams are super-sensitive to any hint of league favoritism, and though this is pure speculation, it’s not hard to envision the NFL levying a fine or a draft pick penalty over this.
Or they’ll just ignore it altogether and pretend everything is fine.