PUP, NFL rules, IR and how they work all explained here. (This is worth a bookmark.)

As the season progresses, you will likely hear, read, or see some of the following terms, or words in various forms of the media. ‘PUP List’, ‘NFI List’, and unfortunately you might hear ‘IR’, as well. What are they? What do they mean?

NFL teams have a 90-man active roster during training camp and for the first time, get to keep that number of players until the final cut down.

90 Man Active Roster

• Players actively practicing, or in the very least slightly limited
• PUP LIST – a list of players that are Physically Unable to Perform.
o Active/Preseason PUP list
o Reserve/Regular Season PUP list.
• NFI List – Non-Football Injury list

Players who do not count against the 90 man/53 man active rosters
• Reserve/Did Not Report – Essentially a player holding out, skipping camp
• IR – Injured Reserve, players that are out for the season
• IR-RD – Injured Reserve – Return Designation (this is a regular season tool)
• NFL Commissioner’s List – players that are dealing with an off-the-field legal issue. Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice were examples of the league/teams using this designation.

Active/Preseason PUP List

As training camp opens, players that can’t practice are generally placed on the PUP list unless it’s a Non-Football Injury (more on that below). They are eligible to practice as soon as they are cleared by the team’s medical staff. To be clear, a player has to start training camp on the PUP list to be placed on it. If a player gets dinged up in say practice #6, they cannot be added to either version of the PUP list. They have to remain on the active roster or be placed on Injured Reserve.

If a player remains on the Active/Preseason PUP list throughout training camp and the team doesn’t activate him at the start of the regular season, then he transfers over to the Reserve/Regular Season PUP list which comes with its own set of rules. Players like Jake Butt and Chad Kelly are eligible for the PUP list even though they are recovering from injuries that pre-date their time in the NFL, but since they are recovering from football injuries they are allowed to be treated as PUP list players if the Broncos feel that is a necessary precaution.

In 2016, Kenny Anunike opened training camp on the PUP list but was released on August 8th. He was the only Bronco over the last two years to open camp on the PUP list.

Reserve/Regular Season/PUP List

• The player is ineligible to practice or play for Weeks 1-6. (the player can receive treatment and attend team and positional meetings).
• The team then has 6 weeks starting the day after week 6 concludes until the day after week 11 concludes for the player to practice. Once that player practices they have 3 weeks (21 days) to be activated, placed on IR, or cut.

Non-Football Injury List (NFI)

This is similar to the PUP list but is generally for players that have an issue that stems from something other than a football injury. For example, if a player seeks treatment in rehab for drug or alcohol issues, they would likely be on the NFI list and have in the past.

Another example is if a player in the next month is on vacation at some Caribbean Island or tinkering on a car in the garage and cuts his foot in a manner than needs stitches and time to heal. The team has the option of placing said player on the PUP list or the NFI list. Strategically, it is better for the team to place that player on the NFI list because if that injury lingers and becomes a much larger issue then the team would have a legal right not to pay his salary since the injury happened outside of football. Since the salary cap is a key component in what makes the NFL work, a team has to be judicial in how they protect it. Teams normally do not take a hardline stance in these situations because it creates a complicated situation, but it is there for their use if they prefer to go that route.

In 2016, DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib opened training camp on the NFI list for the Broncos. Talib was expected following his offseason bullet wound, Ware was a bit of a surprise.

Injured Reserve IR

This is generally used for in-season injuries but should a player receive a catastrophic injury during training camp, then they can be placed on IR at that point, thus all but ending their season, but such placement on the IR would open up a roster spot for a street free agent. If the injury is a 6-8, 8-10 week type healing time the team could put the player on IR to open up the roster spot and then make him one of the two eligible to return after his 6 week stay on IR.

In the 2016 training camp, the Broncos placed defensive lineman Phil Taylor on IR, and then released him from IR shortly after allowing him to seek employment with another of the 31 NFL teams.

Injured Reserve with Return Designation IR-RD

This is essentially a variation of the MLB’s “Disabled List”. This was created in 2012, where it allowed a player to be placed on IR with a RD that allowed the player to return after spending 6 weeks on IR. A player on IR cannot practice, but he can attend meetings and get treatment and work out.

Peyton Manning’s injury in 2015 comes to mind. The Broncos kept him on the active roster, so Manning was free to workout, rehab, attend meetings, fly the middle finger, practice, etc. Had he been placed on the IR-RD, then he would have only been able to attend meetings, and rehab his injury. Roster spots are valuable and some injuries are harder to predict, so in some cases a team will carry the injured player on the roster as opposed to going the IR or IR-RD route.

This off-season, the NFL Owner’s passed a resolution allowing each team to designate a second player, that can return to the active roster following a 6 week visit to the IR with a IR-RD. The DL in baseball comes in 15/30/60 day variations and if 10 players get hurt and need to spend at least 15 days on the mend, then all 10 can do so. This is one example of where MLB handles this type of situation better than the NFL. If they are requiring 6 weeks (42-days) for a trip to the IR, then the ability to return to the roster should be afforded to every player if they are healthy.

NFL Commissioner’s List

A special list created by the NFL for players that are dealing with a legal issue. They have basically been placed with this designation so that the teams can add a new body to the roster while the player has the legal issues worked out in the legal system. Again, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson are two of the most well-known examples of being placed on the Commissioner’s list.

Reserve/Did Not Report

When there is a contract dispute and a player is fails to show up in training camp, the team and puts him on the Reserve/Did Not Report list and can add a player to the roster. Per the CBA, the team also has the ability to fine said player $30,000 per day for each day of training camp they missed. There are other penalties built in for missing preseason games and if the hold out lingers, teams have the ability to recover signing bonus dollars.

Salary Cap
It needs to be said, that the PUP list is not a way for a team to hide salary cap $’s. Players on the PUP list and the IR for that matter, have their cap dollars accounted for just as those on the active roster.

Hypothetical
The Broncos have a few players that could potentially open the 2017 Training Camp and or 2017 Season on the various PUP lists. Matt Paradis, Chad Kelly, and Jake Butt are a few names that come to mind. They are recovering from various injuries and could possibly spend time on both lists. Jamaal Charles’ inclusion wouldn’t be a huge shock either.

By 4:00 PM New York time, on September 2, 2017, teams will have had to trim their roster to the 53-man roster.

As the Broncos trim down to the 53-man roster, if of those guys makes it to the Reserve/Regular Season PUP list, then they would be ineligible to practice/play until at least October 17th, the first day following the completion of week 6. It is based on weeks and not games and since the Broncos have their BYE week in week 5, a Bronco player can actually gain a game as opposed to a team who had a bye week after week 6.
11/21 is the date following the conclusion of the 11th week for the 2017 season. If a player has not practiced by that point then they will not be active during the 2017 season. If by that time they haven’t practiced the team has to put them IR or release them.

Official Language: Commencing on the day after the conclusion of the sixth regular season weekend (Date varies per year) and continuing through the day after the conclusion of the 11th regular season weekend (Date varies per year), clubs are permitted to begin practicing players on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform for a period not to exceed 21 calendar days. Pads and helmets are permitted during the 21-day period. At any time during the 21-day practice period, or prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the day after the conclusion of the 21-day period, clubs are permitted to restore such players on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform to their Active/Inactive List.

Note: Once training camp opens, an updated report will be filled based on roster designations and again once the regular season starts and players are cut down from 90 to 53, and the practice squad is filled out.

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