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The injured-reserve rule's limit of only five free moves, one of them for a player hurt in the exhibition season, is an injury producer, especially now that it's combined with the 1985 reduction in roster size from 49 to 45. When the 49ers could field only those 37 healthy players against the Packers, volunteers were needed. Linebacker Todd Shell, recovering from a pulled quadriceps muscle, was rushed back into action. He reinjured the muscle and may be out for the year.
The roster problem is caused by money. Cheapness forced the rosters down. But the game has changed. You need all the healthy, rested bodies you can get nowadays. Solution: Bring back the taxi squad, so players aren't forced to play till they break down. And so injured players aren't brought back too soon. People are stashed on injured reserve all the time now, anyway, so make honest men out of them. The NFL conducts spot physicals, but a player can be coached to say ouch at the right time. Create a taxi squad of seven players, like in the old days, like in the USFL, and allow fluidity of movement. But just so that the stashers won't stash players on injured reserve anyway, put a three-week limit on taxi players. Then you either have to activate them or subject them to 24-hour waivers. The old-liners will scream about the extra salaries, but look how much they're spending on the injured-reserve guys now, players who could come back but don't because the club is saving its moves.
Drastic problems need bold solutions. I have this to say:
To Gene Upshaw—get your union members a safe surface to play on. The owners won't do it; it's up to you. The membership deserves it.
To Pete Rozelle—begin steroid testing right now. Get rid of the freak show in the NFL.
To Art McNally—make sure your refs are working on the same page. Get them to recognize intent to maim and punish it accordingly.
To the Competition Committee—no more clipping. Don't build up the passing stats at the sake of people's knees.
To the owners—pay for a taxi squad. Spend some dough to preserve careers. Too many are being cut short. Just ask all those guys with casts on their knees and arms.
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