ESPN's NFC West blogger Mike Sando has provided us with some fairly important new information about the NFL's PUP list rules. Previously we were operating under the impression that after the first six weeks, an NFL team had to get a player back on the practice field within three weeks, and then had to get him on to the 53-man roster within three weeks after he started practicing. It turns out the NFL agreed to a rule change that provides teams even more time, and it greatly benefits the 49ers and Michael Crabtree.
Mike Sando wrote last night that a rule change originally proposed in March has now gone into effect. The new rule states that teams have an additional two weeks to get a player back on the practice field, which bumps back the required time to get them back on the 53-man roster. They still only have a three week window once they hit the practice field, but the team now has five weeks to get them practicing as opposed to three weeks.
What does that mean? For Michael Crabtree, if the 49ers put him on the Reserve/PUP list they conceivably could hold off activating him to the 53-man roster until Week 15. With that in mind, it seems highly unlikely at this point that the 49ers would use the Injured Reserve with Return Designation (IRRD) on Crabtree. Crabtree's timetable would have him back in late November or early December, so this new PUP timetable would be more than ideal.
Aside from letting the 49ers take their time with Crabtree, it leaves the team with the IRRD in case of future injury. Obviously it would be nice to never have to use it, but it is also valuable to have that available if need be.