METAIRIE, La. - The New Orleans Saints have relinquished their short-term injured reserve designation for this season by cutting rookie linebacker Khairi Fortt on Monday, one week before he would have been eligible to return to practice.
The short-term injured reserve rule was created by the NFL in 2012 to allow clubs to remove one player each per season from their active roster for about half a season while the player rehabilitates from a significant injury.
Teams generally save the designation for prominent players, as the Baltimore Ravens did in 2012 with linebacker Ray Lewis.
Lewis tore a muscle in his arm in October during the regular season, returned from short-term injured reserve in December and helped the Ravens beat San Francisco in the Super Bowl in New Orleans.
The Saints chose to use the designation at the beginning of the season on the 6-foot-2, 240-pound Fortt, a fourth-round draft choice out of California who missed much of training camp with an unspecified leg injury.
Had Fortt remained on the roster, he would have been allowed to return to practice after the Saints return from their bye in Week 7. He would have been eligible to play in Week 9.
The Fortt transaction was made official by NFL headquarters on Monday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, Saints coach Sean Payton declined to answer a question about Fortt's prospects for returning to practice following Week 6.
If the Saints had decided not to use the short-term designation on Fortt, they either would have had to cut him before the regular season, or use one of 53 active roster spots on him during his rehabilitation.
The Saints also could have elected to place him on regular injured reserve, allowing him to spend all of 2014 rehabilitating and learning the defence before coming back to play in 2015.
One of those options would have allowed the Saints to save the short-term injured reserve designation for an early season injury to a more prominent player.
On Friday, Payton announced that three-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd had torn knee cartilage in practice on Thursday.
Payton said Byrd's rehabilitation from surgery was going to take long enough to require Byrd to be placed on season-ending injured reserve.
As of Monday evening, Byrd was still on the active roster, though Payton said earlier in the day that the Saints still planned to place him on injured reserve.
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