The Shock, and every other AFL team, are adjusting to new rules that make it tougher for coaches/GMs to manage and juggle rosters.
Teams can only suit up 20 players (down from 21). The new injured reserve rule allows teams to activate just one player no earlier than Week 9. As it was explained to me, other IR players that become healthy must clear waivers (meaning every team has a chance to sign them) before they can return to their original team.
Here's the rub: Football players get hurt playing football. I've covered numerous AFL games where 3-4 guys go down. The new rules leave few reserves (The math: 8 on offense, 8 on defense, kicker, backup QB, that's 18 of the 20). As I wrote about in today's S-R, the numbers crunch leads to creative manuevers, as the Shock showed inserting No. 2 quarterback Arvell Nelson and DB Terrance Sanders at wide receiver last week against Iowa.
The new IR rule leaves franchises making tough choices. First, they have to make accurate predictions on the future health of injured players (Does that knee heal in 4 weeks or 8 weeks?). Every team will place one player on IR that they expect to bring back in Week 9. Beyond that player, anyone else on IR essentially becomes a free agent who can likely help another team. If you put two quality players on IR, you're probably going to lose the one you don't activate.
Remember, with 24 players on the roster there's only four spots available for players recovering from an injury that might sideline them for, say, 2-4 weeks. That's not much wiggle room, particularly with the AFL in its third season with 18 regular-season games.