Roster numbers influence Pats call on Fletcher

Roster numbers influence Pats call on Fletcher
August 14, 2012, 7:20 pm
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FOXBORO -- The Patriots had a decision to make with Dane Fletcher and his torn ACL:

Put the third-year linebacker on injured reserve right away and have him occupy a spot on the team's roster for two more weeks, or waive him as an injured player and hope that none of the other 31 teams are interested in paying Fletcher his 2012 salary while he sits on their injured reserve.

The Patriots -- apparently -- decided to take the chance with Fletcher, waiving him Monday. Once he clears waivers, Fletcher will, according to an NFL GM, revert to the Patriots' injured reserve.

I say "apparently" because Pats Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio reacted as if he'd been asked for the nuclear codes on Tuesday when the Fletcher topic arose.

"We made the decision that we made, and were moving forward, Caserio stated. When the question of whether Fletcher would have counted against the roster if he was put on IR was posed, Caserio seemed exasperated.

"We make decisions every day on the roster," he said. "If there are any rules questions, I would direct those to the league and their interpretation.

The decision exposes one of the roster idiosyncrasies we don't often see. If it were the regular season, Fletcher could have gone straight to IR and a roster spot would have opened up.

But when a player is IR'd with the roster limit still at 90, the team does not get to fill his spot until the cut to 75. Presumably, the rule was enacted to head off any teams hoping to stash young players on IR during camp with phantom injuries.

Fletcher's injury isn't a put-on, though. And the fact his knee is blown will -- the Patriots seem to hope -- scare off any suitors.

And Fletcher's very specific role with the Patriots -- a coverage linebackerspecial teamer in a multiple defense -- may not have as much relevance around the league as it does here.