The NFL announced a rule change on Wednesday that will have a notable impact on rosters this fall. The league changed the injured reserve with return designation so that you no longer have to designate the player ahead of time. Teams are still only allowed to bring one player back, but they can bring back any one player they've placed on injured reserve.
Previously, if a team wanted to use the one return designation spot, they had to declare it when the player was placed on injured reserve. Now, they can just see who is getting healthy quickly, and take them off IR. Once they take that player off IR, the rest of the IR players must remain on the list.
Last year, the 49ers used the return designation on rookie running back Mike Davis. The 49ers placed Davis on the IR on November 7, after he suffered a broken hand. He was on the list for seven games plus the bye week, and returned for the team's Week 17 finale. The previous year, they used the return designation for Glenn Dorsey, and in 2013 they used it on Nick Moody.
The 49ers have some injuries to deal with already, but this new rule will not impact any of those players. Ian Williams is expected to open the season on the NFI list due to his ankle surgeries, and Glenn Dorsey stands a decent chance of opening the season on the PUP list.