The NFL preseason tends to tell the same story year after year - players aren’t as good as they’ve been hyped up to be, entire teams can be reliant on one or two single players, and guys will get injured. It’s just the nature of the beast, and these truths are applicable, generally, across the board. Regarding the latter piece, there’s a certain frustration that comes with the territory; watching players jump on and off the injured list carousel is nothing new. However, preseason games are generally used to evaluate the talent lower on the depth chart, and seeing those guys injured during meaningless play can be wholly exasperating.
The most recent round of 49ers walking wounded are RB Joe Williams, QB C.J. Beathard, and OL Erik Magnuson. Unfortunately, Williams (broken rib) and Magnuson (hamstring) look to have injuries on the “more” serious side, and look to miss significant amounts of time. As Williams is expected to miss several weeks, and Magnuson is expected to miss up to eight weeks, the idea of using the injured reserve (or physically unable to play/return) designation for one or both has been kicked around by some over the past 24 hours.
At this juncture, there are a few options that can be exercised. One possibility that has already been ruled out would be the use of Physically Unable to Play (PUP)/Reserve list. This designation is used on players who are injured before the start of the season, but not medically cleared to return. They are placed on a temporary exempt list, and eligible to return after Week 6. During this time, they’re not allowed to engage in any team activities other than working with the training staff. After Week 6, the team has a fairly sizable window to return the player to practice (while still exempt from the roster), and decide whether to activate, cut, or simply leave the player on PUP for the remainder of the season. Since both players have practiced during training camp, neither are eligible for this designation.
The realistic possibilities are the Injured Reserve (IR) and IR/Designated to Return lists. Standard IR affords a team the ability to stash away an injured player and recoup a roster spot, but shuts down the player for the season. IR/Designated to Return is something of a misnomer, as it was a thing, but recent rules have changed how it’s used - previously, a team had one player they could IR, but designate to return to the roster after eight weeks. That is no longer the case, as teams are now able to bring back two players from IR, and do not need to designate their status at the time of the decision. The eight week rule stills stands, but the players are allowed to attend (but not participate in) practices and team meetings.
Based on the severity of the injuries, if the team intends to retain the services of both players, these designations could come in handy. Regarding Joe Williams’ injury, no time-table has been released yet, so his status could simply be “stashed on the roster until he gets better”, or the IR list could be a viable option. Again, this is assuming that he hasn’t played himself out of a job with an abysmal preseason. As for Erik Magnuson, it’s more likely that the team does intend to retain his services, and the time-table surrounding his injury would make the IR (with the intent to have him return) a very feasible option.
Oh, and C.J. Beathard will be fine. Health-wise.
Diagnosing Jimmie Ward’s preseason woes | Crocker, 4th & 9
Kyle Shanahan, 49ers unclear on new helmet rule | Maiocco, NBC Sports Bay Area
Trent Taylor impressive in return from injury | Branch, SF Gate
Kyle Shanahan said Jimmy Garoppolo is “not always perfect” | Biderman, Ninerswire