After seven long months of rest, recovery, rehab, surgery -- expected and unexpected -- we're soon to find out which players are conditioned and ready to practice and which are not. Veterans will begin reporting to camp on Monday, July 25th (Green Bay) with a steady stream of teams reporting later in the week.
Each NFL front office, in consultation with their medical staff, must first decide whether a player is fit 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).
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 – Regular season 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 – Regular season only list. Players converted from the Active/NFI list to the Reserve/NFI list are out for the entire season.
Injured Reserve – Return Designation
The NFL changed the IR-Return rule this offseason. Previously, a team was allowed to return one player from their injured reserve list each season. That player had to be designated at the time he was placed on injured reserve. This season, teams will no longer be forced to designate a player to return at the time of the move to injured reserve. While each team can only return one player from their injured reserve list, they can choose to activate any player who has spent at least six weeks on the injured reserve list. The player designated to return can begin practicing six weeks after being placed on injured reserve and is first eligible to return to the active roster eight weeks after being place on injured reserve.
The new IR-return rule will give more roster flexibility to teams. Coaches and medical staffs can now put multiple players on injured reserve and re-evaluate their recoveries on a regular basis. Teams won't be put to a tough decision in the early weeks of the season on a marginal starter. Only one can be returned to the active roster eight weeks after the injury, but we're likely to have a handful of teams with questions over which player gets returned off injured reserve and when. More flexibility never means more clarity.