By tagging Brown with the "designated to return" option, the Chargers became the first NFL team to pull that lever, meaning Brown is eligible to return later this season.
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The "designated to return" rule is new to the NFL this season. Teams can slap it on one player who's suffered a "major injury," defined as one keeping a player out for six weeks or more.
Brown is an ideal candidate for the new rule.
The second-year wideout broke his ankle on August 18 in a preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys. He was slapped with an eight-week recovery period, meaning the Chargers would have been forced to keep Brown on the 53-man roster or end his season on IR in 2011. In 2012, Philip Rivers sees a light at the end of the tunnel.
UPDATE: The Buffalo Bills also employed the option Tuesday on rookie defensive back Ron Brooks, the team announced. This one is more of an eyebrow raiser. Brown, the team's fourth-round draft pick, had foot surgery last week, but he didn't figure as starting material this season. The Bills obviously think highly of him.