NFL training camps mostly are in full swing, and that means it’s PUP list season. Here’s what it means when your team puts a player on the physically unable to perform list or the (fairly similar) non-football injury list (NFI).
Preseason PUP list
Obviously, this means that a player isn’t quite ready to practice after suffering an injury during an official team activity. A player on the PUP list at the start of training camp is forbidden from practicing until cleared by a team’s medical personnel — the player can still attend team meetings and work out at the team facility — but once cleared the player can return to the field immediately. Any player who practices with a team during training camp is not eligible to be placed on the PUP list, and the team has to either cut him or put the player on injured reserve (more on that in a moment).
Among the players on the preseason PUP list are Dolphins running back Arian Foster (who tore his Achilles’ last season with the Texans) and Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (who had surgery in January to repair a broken leg suffered in Week 17 last season).
Regular season PUP list
If a player is still on the PUP list when the regular season begins, he is not eligible to play in the team’s first six games but does not count against a team’s 53-man roster. After six games, the team has three weeks to decide whether the player will return to the practice field as part of the 53-man roster and then — if the player returns to practice — another three weeks to decide whether to put him on injured reserve. The clock starts on that second time frame the day the player returns to practice.
The non-football injury list is (again obviously) for players who suffered an injury away from the field that is keeping them from practicing with the team at the start of training camp. The rules are similar to the PUP list with one notable exception: The team has the option of not paying the NFI player’s base salary during the regular season (though it often works out some sort of deal to pay some or all of the player’s salary).
This year, for instance, the Broncos’ DeMarcus Ware (back injury) and Aqib Talib (who suffered two gunshot wounds to his leg in early June) are both starting the season on the NFI list.
If a player suffers a major injury (one that’s expected to keep him off the field for at least six weeks), he can be placed on injured reserve. In most cases this means the end of a player’s season, but now teams are allowed to designate one (and only one) player per season as injured reserved/designated to return, meaning that player can start practicing six regular season weeks after the IR designation and playing in games after eight weeks.