Training camp is like Navin R. Johnson’s phone book experience: Eagerly awaited as a rite of passage and the beginning of something special, only to quickly become annoying and often painful as the novelty wears off.
It’s late July, however, and players, media members and fans are still basking in the glow of a new football year. After a mostly uneventful OTA season, teams are starting to show their cards.
Sure, we’ll quickly get annoyed with twitter feeds full of useless camp play-by-play and trying to decide whether coaches are messing with depth charts to motivate their players. But we’ll also see which injured players aren’t yet ready for practice and which out-of-shape players have made their coaches fussy enough to make those players condition on the side until they are cleared to practice.
DECIPHERING THE ALPHABET SOUP OF INJURY LISTS
Players not ready for camp practices are placed on one of two lists – Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) or Non-Football Injury/Illness (NFI). Before we get to the players who did (and didn’t) make these lists, let’s quickly clarify what these lists mean.
Physically Unable to Perform
Active/PUP – Preseason only list. Once a player participates in any part of a scheduled training camp practice, they are ineligible for this list. Players can be activated from this list at any time. This list is commonly used for veterans still recovering from injury and those who fail conditioning tests before camp begins.
Reserve/PUP – Inseason only list. Players still on Active/PUP at the end of camp are eligible to move to Reserve/PUP. Players cannot practice with the team until after Week 6. Teams then have six weeks to evaluate the player before moving to the active roster or to season-ending injured reserve.
Non-Football Injury / Illness
Active/NFI – Preseason only list. Once a player participates in any part of a scheduled training camp practice, they are ineligible for this list. Players can be activated from this list at any time. Only veterans with a non-football related injury or rookies injured before the NFL draft are eligible for this list.
Reserve/NFI – Inseason only list. Players converted from the Active/NFI list to the Reserve/NFI list are out for the entire season.
Injured Reserve – Return Designation
Each team can place one player per season on the IR-Return list. This player cannot practice for six weeks and cannot be moved to the active roster for eight weeks from the time they were placed on the list. The practice/participation clock does not begin until the start of the regular season.
Don’t overreact to these designations. Take it as a very positive sign if a veteran whose injury status was unknown starts camp on the active roster, but it’s possible that player’s reps may still be severely limited in the early weeks of camp. And while you’re spidey senses should be tingling with any player who is a surprise addition to the PUP list or stays on longer than expected, remember that teams will want to keep their PUP and IR-Return options open as long as possible. Once a player takes part in a practice, those options are limited.
About half the league has yet to start practice. Those teams have until the first repetition to place players on the Active-PUP and Active-NFI lists. I’ll update the list and discussion below as situations change, including changing the status of players as they are activated from PUP and NFI to the active roster.
LE’VEON BELL | KNEE | CLEARED TO PRACTICE
Bell spent much of the offseason telling reporters he wasn’t 100% recovered from a Week 17 knee injury. While it’s still likely he had more than a minor hyperextension, the angst over Bell’s status quieted quickly after he started camp on the active roster and looked healthy in back-to-back practices. Bell has not been a model of durability in his early career, but his condition to open camp is reassuring.
JORDY NELSON | HIP | CLEARED TO PRACTICE
Nelson wasn’t cleared for OTA and minicamp workouts but the Packers never seemed concern about his status for camp. He quietly avoided the PUP list and has been cleared for practice. Now four months after his hip procedure, the only remaining hurdle is to avoid any muscle strains through the first two weeks of conditioning and practice.
VICTOR CRUZ | KNEE | cleared to practice
Both Cruz and Beckham took and passed the Giants' conditioning test today. For Cruz, it's another positive indicator in his recovery from last October's patellar tendon repair. Don't read too much into Cruz telling reporters he's 93% recovered, however. The percentages players use to estimate recovery are mostly meaningless. In Cruz's case, he's telling you he's continued to improve over the summer but doesn't think he's fully recovered yet. As I've stressed for months with both Bell and Cruz, even if you buy into the percentages, it's the last few "percentage points" that are the toughest to get back. Cruz will undoubtedly have his early practice work closely monitored and limited but we're drawing closer to learning whether Cruz will recover well enough to run effective routes and avoid any compensatory injuries.
ODELL BECKHAM | HAMSTRING | CLEARED TO PRACTICE
Unlike last summer, there was no undercurrent of concern with Beckham coming into camp. Beckham also passed the Giants' conditioning tests and is expected to be a full go in practice. He'll now enter the all-important 7-14 day timeframe of reconditioning. If he can avoid any setbacks or new muscle strains, he should be able to pick up where he left off last season.
KELVIN BENJAMIN | HAMSTRING | AWAITING STATUS
Benjamin recently told reporters both hamstrings had fully healed. He should start camp on the active roster.
SAMMY WATKINS | HIP | AWAITING STATUS
Watkins told reporters he was 100% healthy when he arrived at camp yesterday (July 29). He acknowledged the coaches may decide to limit his reps early and he’ll need to see how his body responds when he begins football-related activity at full speed. He should start camp on the active roster.
CARLOS HYDE | CALF | ACTIVE-NFI >>> CLEARED TO PRACTICE
Hyde missed practice time in June with a leg injury later revealed to be a calf strain. His time on NFI was brief, however. The Niners activated him after just 24 hours on the list. It’s possible there were conditioning concerns or additional testing the team wanted to perform after his intake physical. Whatever the worries, Hyde is back practicing. The first 7-14 days after returning from a muscle strain are the highest risk period. Avoiding a recurrence – which can often be a higher grade strain than the original injury – in early camp practice is crucial.
TODD GURLEY | KNEE | CLEARED TO PRACTICE
Though he likely wouldn’t have remained there long, Gurley was widely expected to start camp on the NFI list. With his rehab and recovery progressing well ahead of schedule, the Rams put him on the active roster to start camp. That’s a great sign. If the Rams are comfortable removing the easiest option to stash Gurley through the early weeks of the season, it’s clear evidence they (a) believe he’s ready to participate in team drills and (b) think he can contribute in Week 1.
RODDY WHITE | KNEE | CLEARED TO PRACTICE
White wasn’t on the radar with a known injury concern but volunteered to reporters he had needed his knee drained in the offseason. The fluid accumulation stems from an ongoing cartilage condition White (and many, many other players) have. White says he’s not worried, said he’s not a “surgery guy,” and acknowledged he may need further procedures during the season. While you shouldn’t dismiss the cartilage issue entirely, it’s not necessarily a setup for multiple missed games. And remember the Roddy Rule. If White fully practices by Friday and talks to the media, you know he’s good to go. If not, avoid him.
LEGARRETTE BLOUNT | UNDISCLOSED | ACTIVE-NFI
Blount failed his conditioning test as camp opened. He’ll have to complete twenty 50-yard sprints in eight seconds each to be cleared for practice. The sooner Blount completes the requirement, the less fussy Bill Belichick is likely to be with a player already unavailable for Week 1 due to suspension.
MARQUES COLSTON | UNDISCLOSED | ACTIVE-PUP
Sean Payton would not tell reporters why Colston started camp on the PUP list. None of the beat writers in New Orleans expect Colston to be held out of practice for long. If this rolls into the second week of camp, it will be worth looking into more closely.
KEVIN WHITE | SHIN | ACTIVE-PUP
The Bears wouldn’t talk about it during mini-camp, but White suffered a shin injury at the end of OTAs. That shin injury landed him on the PUP list this week, but isn’t believed to be serious. White was asked to stay off the leg for a month, but wasn’t on crutches and didn’t have a visible wrap when he arrived at camp. All indications are the team wants to ensure he’s fully conditioned before risking a muscle strain in the early days of camp.
JOIQUE BELL | ACHILLES/KNEE | ACTIVE-PUP
There remains an undercurrent of concern with Bell around the team. His offensive coordinator, Joe Lombardi, shared concerns about his ability to recover and get back into playing condition with reporters this week. Bell could be activated at any time, but unlike many others on this list, there doesn’t appear to be optimism for a short 1-3 day stay for conditioning reasons.
SAM BRADFORD | ACL | AWAITING STATUS
The Eagles do not report until August 1 and will first practice on August 2. Bradford, who was reportedly limping at times during the offseason, is expected to be cleared to practice.
BRANDON LAFELL | UNDISCLOSED | ACTIVE-PUP
The Patriots are not shy about putting players on the PUP and NFI lists until they’re fully ready to perform. Minor injuries and poor conditioning are usually the culprit, with players getting the message and returning quickly. We’ll see if that’s the case with LaFell soon enough.
DEVANTE PARKER | FOOT | ACTIVE-PUP
No surprise here. Parker’s rehab from a surgical procedure to revise a screw placed to fix a bone in his foot is ongoing. There have been no reports of a setback and meeting even optimistic estimates would keep Parker out well into camp. Expect the Dolphins to allow Parker plenty of time to recover and re-condition, though it’s still more likely than not Parker begins 2015 on the active roster.
darren mcfadden | hamstring | active-PUP
Unless this is your first time reading my work, you know how loathe I am to label a player injury prone. But it's hard to argue against McFadden's injury history. This hamstring injury, which lingers from minicamp last month, is the latest in a long line of soft tissue injuries.
TYLER EIFERT | SHOULDER/ELBOW | CLEARED TO PRACTICE
After another year lost to injury, expect to hear glowing reports of Eifert’s play in camp and how often he’s being targeted by Andy Dalton. Avoiding any muscle strains or joint setbacks is a must in the next 2-3 weeks.
STEVAN RIDLEY | KNEE | ACTIVE-PUP
Ridley continues to recover from a late season ACL tear. Now eight months into his recovery, it’s possible he’ll be ready for practice before camp ends. There have been no updates from the team on his current condition.
JORDAN REED | KNEE | CLEARED TO PRACTICE
Washington cleared Reed to practice this week after a “cleanout” procedure on his knee this spring. There are multiple areas of concern with Reed, including a history of multiple concussions and a propensity for higher grade muscle strains. Conditioning is key here. Reed has to get through the first few practices without a soft tissue injury for the team to count on him.
DENNIS PITTA | HIP | ACTIVE-PUP
Pitta was placed on the active-PUP list. While it will keep Baltimore’s options open, there are no indications the team is counting on Pitta this season and it’s likely he’ll be transferred to reserve-PUP at the end of camp. He’ll continue to work to beat the long odds against a full recovery from multiple hip dislocations.
DEANDRE SMELTER | KNEE | ACTIVE-NFI
Smelter tore an ACL last season at Georgia Tech in December. He’ll have an outside shot at making the active roster in September, but the Niners aren’t likely to push him to meet that timetable.
RYAN WILLIAMS | KNEE | INJURED RESERVE
Patellar tears are very difficult injuries. Recovery is far from assured and Williams has struggled to return to playable form. The Cowboys ended his 2015 season last week.
Derrick Johnson (Achilles), Sean Lee (knee), NaVorro Bowman (knee), and Kiko Alonso (knee) were all fully practicing in OTAs and minicamp. They are expected to start their respective camps on the active roster.
JASON PIERRE-PAUL | HAND | AWAITING STATUS
This situation is muddled and it’s not likely to be cleared up soon. Pierre-Paul has refused all contact with the Giants and has yet to sign his franchise tender. The team won’t pull the tender until they examine their stud defensive end. Pierre-Paul won’t sign the tender until he’s certain he’s recovered enough and in no danger of the team putting him on NFI and not paying him. Without knowing how much collateral damage was done to the hand over and above the amputation and skin grafting, it’s impossible to say if we are 1-2 weeks from Pierre-Paul reconciling with the Giants or much longer. Stay tuned.
VONTAZE BURFICT | KNEE | ACTIVE-PUP
Burfict had microfracture surgery in January. The Bengals have been characteristically quiet about his recovery. There are indications they hope Burfict can return in time for opening weekend, and may be hoping to clear him for the third preseason game. I think it’s more likely Burfict will be transferred to Reserve-PUP at the end of camp.
BRANDON MARSHALL | FOOT | cleared to practice
DANNY TREVATHAN | KNEE | cleared to practice
The offseason reports on both Denver linebackers have been promising and both will start camp on the active roster. Marshall had surgery to repair a Lisfranc injury in March. That’s a recovery process that often takes 6-9 months, so his clearance for camp is very impressive. Trevathan had a procedure to clear up ongoing issues around his knee and was expected to be ready for camp. Both linebackers will likely be eased into team sessions while they work on reconditioning.
STEPHEN TULLOCH | KNEE | CLEARED FOR PRACTICE
The Lions don’t have to make decisions on their players until August 3, but the team is expected to put Tulloch on the active roster. While obviously a great sign for Tulloch’s progress from last season’s ACL tear, the team may still limit his reps early.
JADEVEON CLOWNEY | KNEE | ACTIVE-PUP
We’ve heard nothing but positive reports on Clowney over the past month. However, despite the improved microfracture techniques and rehab methods which have kept his quad muscles in great shape, there’s still reason to worry over the state of the cartilage in Clowney’s knee. We’re nearing nine months of rehab after Clowney’s mid-December surgery – rehab can take anywhere from 9-12 months (or more) – and he should be close to gaining clearance for football-related activity. If the Texans clear him for any training camp work, it’ll be a very promising development.
SIO MOORE | HIP | ACTIVE-PUP
Moore still isn’t ready to return from offseason hip surgery and the Raiders have the depth to keep him sidelined. The sooner Moore returns, the more time he’ll have to hold Malcolm Smith off in the competition for the open starting outside linebacker job.
DONTA HIGHTOWER | SHOULDER | CLEARED TO PRACTICE
JEROD MAYO | KNEE | CLEARED TO PRACTICE
There remained some concern Hightower and Mayo could be moved to the PUP list. But after passing their conditioning tests, both linebackers were on the field practicing today (July 30). Hightower was limited, Mayo fully participated. That’s a great sign, particularly for Mayo’s recovery from last season’s torn patellar tendon.
DONTARI POE | BACK | AWAITING STATUS
Poe had back surgery for a herniated disc in mid-July. Details are thin, but one report suggests the disc was removed. If only a fragment was removed, Poe’s recovery could be in the 12 week range and he’ll have an outside chance of being ready for the early weeks of the season. If the entire disc was removed and a spinal fusion performed, Poe may need 4-6 months to recover, which could put much of the season in jeopardy. The team doesn’t have to declare Poe’s initial roster status until August 1.
ERIC BERRY | LYMPHOMA | CLEARED TO PRACTICE
After a day filled with discussion on the status of Tom Brady and Le’Veon Bell, the late night news on Berry’s recovery from cancer and clearance to participate in camp was welcome. Berry started his chemotherapy regimen in better shape than most, but it’s a long treatment process and the medications used are rough. With luck, Berry avoided any side effects that would limit his return to form. The Chiefs signed both Tyvon Branch and Ron Parker this offseason, which could mean Berry may only need to be counted on in subpackages in the early weeks of the season. Expect the team to limit Berry’s reps and give him days off in the early weeks of camp.
JAIRUS BYRD | KNEE | ACTIVE-PUP
There’s probably nothing to see here. Like Colston, Byrd’s stay on the PUP list is expected to be short. The Saints would love to see him playing in form next to Kenny Vaccaro. Back and meniscus surgeries have limited him since signing in New Orleans.
SEN’DERRICK MARKS | KNEE | ACTIVE-PUP
Marks had surgery to repair a torn ACL in January. There’s still optimism he’ll be able to return in time for opening weekend.
WILLIE YOUNG | ACHILLES | CLEARED FOR PRACTICE
LAMARR HOUSTON | KNEE | CLEARED FOR PRACTICE
JON BOSTIC | BACK | CLEARED FOR PRACTICE
Both Young and Houston are adequately recovered from major injuries and will start camp on the active roster. How well they transition to Vic Fangio’s multiple 3-4 front remains to be seen. It’s very good news to see Bostic cleared after missing the entire offseason recovering from a back injury. John Fox dismissed Bostic in OTAs, noting he’d not seen Bostic on the field and couldn’t evaluate his play.
Check back for more injury analysis throughout training camp and the regular season. Also, follow on Twitter @JeneBramel for breaking injury news, commentary and analysis of this injury and others around the NFL.