Commish HQ: The Case for Keeping The IR Slot Beyond Covid

By Reginald James
Reginald James

Do you have an IR slot option in your league?


For some of us, an injured reserve (IR) slot as a bench option has been a feature in our leagues for quite a while. Last year, during Covid Year One, out of obvious concerns about the greater potential for losing players (past the normal occurrences of injury) due to Covid, some commissioners decided to add an IR or “Covid” slot for the first time. We’re now into year two of the pandemic and more people have joined the crowd adopting the use of the IR slot. That’s a good thing.


What follows is an appeal to commissioners to create an individual IR slot for their league rosters. To those commissioners who added one to their league because of the pandemic, I want to promote the idea of keeping the IR slot as an option, even when the time comes when we no longer have to worry about an NFL team losing an entire positional group all at once. Even before Covid, the IR slot was a great way to allow people more flexibility in managing their roster.


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A new commissioner who wants to get creative, or who is looking to make their league stand out from the rest, will likely put a lot of energy into determining the structure of the starting roster. All kinds of variations abound. What type of flex slots will be allowed? Will there be a flex slot that includes tight ends? What about quarterbacks? Will there be three WR slots or one?


If you are thinking about breaking away from your home or office league, and starting your own some time in the future, you’re likely to put a lot of thought into the makeup of the starting roster, but don’t ignore the bench. Put some thought into how many bench slots you’ll have. It can make a big difference in determining how your league managers will construct and maintain their rosters, and can directly affect the frequency of waiver and trade activity.


We’ll discuss this at length some time in the future, but for now, we’re going to continue our lobbying effort in the name of the IR slot, which we want you to imagine as simply yet another bench spot.


Hot Bench


There should be at least one IR slot as part of your bench. One slot should work for most leagues with 12 teams or less. The size of your league, and the overall size of your bench will determine whether or not you might add more than that. Of course, it’s up to you to do whatever you want, but keep in mind, as I mentioned before, you want to give more thought to how your bench size can affect league behavior.


Having an IR slot allows a manager to stash a currently unusable player away on the bench. Managers aren’t penalized by being forced to drop that player, who hopefully can eventually return and produce for them. They won’t have to worry about  a player who they value, taking up an active roster spot for an extended period.  It frees up an active slot, and allows a manager to go get another player. This can spur more active league dipping into the waiver wire.


Under the Hood


How do you decide what qualifies whether you can put a player in the IR slot? At the end of the day, you get to decide. The most obvious scenario would be a player that is literally placed on IR.  Whatever you decide, just make sure you come up with hard and fast rules for who is and who isn’t supposed to be there because managers will want to throw any player there, and hope no one notices. Let’s also allow, they might, at times, put the wrong player there by mistake, but that’s what the rules are for, right?


In any case, your rules need to be in writing and very specific, so there’s no confusion. Let’s take a look at the most common injury/status tags a NFL player might have on your platform:


  • IR (Injured Reserve)
  • O (Out)
  • PUP (Physically Unable to Perform)
  • NA (Not Active)
  • P (Probable)
  • Q (Questionable)
  • SUSP (Suspended)


Any player that has the status of the first three designations: injured reserve, out, and physically unable to perform, should automatically qualify for the IR slot.


In my opinion, probable and questionable should not garner use of the IR slot. Players with these two labels have not been officially pulled and prevented from actually playing in a game. Players labeled with NA are usually going to be players who aren't on the active roster, or in some cases aren't even in the league. At the moment, Josh Gordon would be a great example of such a player, and likely marked as such on some platforms. If someone wants to stash Josh Gordon in my league, they can't do it using the IR slot. The status of a suspended player gets a little tricky for some. I personally don’t allow suspended players to be put on IR in my league. The players are not playing because of non-injury related shenanigans, so that doesn’t pass muster in our league. I have heard of some leagues, however, that allow managers to use their IR slot for suspended players. Every league is different. Every commissioner has a different vision for their league, and their own personal bias as a player, that will influence the choices they make when starting their league.


It’s your call. Again, I can’t stress this enough: whatever you choose to do, make sure that every condition and rule that applies is put in writing.


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