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Could the Colts utilize a little-known change in injury settlement language this year?

NFL: Preseason-Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Injury situations can be confusing in the NFL.

It can be hard for some people to keep track of all of the different designations: waived-injured, reverted to injured reserve, placed on injured reserve, injured reserve with a designation to return, and waived with an injury settlement are all phrases you’ll hear, and they all mean slightly different things.

One of those things in particular could be interesting to the Colts this year, and it’s something Chuck Pagano actually mentioned in his press conference on Monday. Pagano was asked about whether he’s thought about the designation to return from IR yet, to which he responded, “I really haven’t.” He then proceeded to bring up another aspect of the injury situations that could be more pertinent, however.

“I know some of those guys that we’ve waived have settled and now the clock starts on those types of things,” Pagano said. “How many weeks [for the] injury plus three weeks, they’ve shortened that window so there are some guys there that you certainly would look at but the amount of time has to elapse before you can do that.”

What Pagano is alluding to is this: the NFL this offseason changed the rules regarding how soon you can bring an injured guy back. Here’s what that means: previously, when a player suffered an injury that wasn’t expected to be a season-ender, a team would place the player on injured reserve but then cut him with an injury settlement. What that means is that the team and the player would reach an agreement on how long the injury should take to heal, and the team would then agree to pay the player for that length of time. The player would be free to look for other NFL jobs in the meantime, but he wouldn’t be allowed to return to the team that cut him until six weeks after the injury settlement was up. So, if for example a player was cut and reached an injury settlement of four weeks, the team couldn’t bring him back for ten weeks. This year, that length of titme is shortened. Instead of it being six weeks after the injury settlement is up, it’s now only three weeks - cutting that waiting period in half.

So it’s interesting to hear Pagano go out of his way to mention that aspect of roster building. Could the Colts wind up bringing one or two guys back later in the year who were waived with an injury settlement? So far, the candidates aren’t overly exciting - wide receiver Brian Tyms, tight end Darion Griswold, running back Abou Toure, and tackle Kevin Graf. What’s more interesting is the fact that the Colts are expected to waive cornerback D’Joun Smith with an injury settlement at some point, and Chuck Pagano had positive things about Smith to say on Monday. Pagano noted that availability is a key ability and added that, “It’s unfortunate, but his head is in a good place. He’s a good football player, he’s got to heal up. We will hear from him again.”

It’s up to you to determine what that means, and w’eve certainly received no indication yet that the Colts plan on bringing him back at some point. So we don’t know if there’s anyone in particular the Colts have in mind, but I found it interesting that Pagano answered a question about IR-DFR with the nugget about the shortened time for injury settlements. That means it’s on the minds of some of the Colts’ decision makers, so it’s worth filing away in case it comes up again later in the year.