clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Understanding NFL Roster Designations: Injured Reserve, PUP, NFI, And "Did Not Report"

We review the different roster/injury designations available to the Cowboys and all other NFL teams as the practice intensity picks up in training camp.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The official Cowboys roster on shows the following players with specific injury/roster designations that are keeping them off the active roster:

Reserve/Did Not Report: Rolando McClain, Randy Gregory
Active/Non-Football Injury: Darren McFadden, Jaylon Smith, Damien Wilson

Additionally, the Cowboys have the option of using the Reserve/Injured designation, which they did for Orlando Scandrick last year, and can also use the Reserve/Non-Football Illness designation for players whose injury/Illness happened outside of the purview of the NFL.

Those designations will become an important roster management tool as the Cowboys start trimming their roster. The Cowboys have to reduce their roster to 75 players on August 30, and further reduce it to 53 players by September 3. So here's a rundown of the different designations:

Reserve/Did Not Report

This is a pretty straightforward list. A player is played on this list if he fails to report to training camp by the team-specified date. We know that Randy Gregory did not report to camp because he's entered a drug rehab facility, we don't know exactly why Rolando McClain didn't show up.

Teams have fairly draconian measures at their disposal to deal with such no-shows, though they seldom use them to their full extent. Here's former player agent Joel Corry of CBSSports explaining the fines that can be levied at a player on this list.

A team can fine a player a maximum of $30,000 for each day of training camp he misses. A player who signed his contract as an unrestricted free agent can be fined one week's base salary (1/17 of salary) for each preseason game missed in addition to the $30,000 per day.

A team can also recover a portion of a player's signing bonus. Fifteen percent of the prorated amount of signing bonus can be recouped on the sixth day of a training camp holdout. It's one percent for each additional missed day with a maximum of 25 percent of the prorated amount during training camp. An additional 25 percent can be recovered with the first missed regular season game. After four missed weeks, a team can recover 1/17 of the prorated amount for each additional week of the player's absence. The maximum a team can recover in a season is the entire prorated amount of the player's signing bonus in that contract year.

As a team, there's no point in resorting to such heavy-handed tactics if you still want the player to play for you, but if a team is looking to get rid of a player anyway, this might be one way to recoup whatever is left to recoup from that player's contract.

Players on this list do not count towards any of the 90-, 75- or 53-man roster limits.

Physically Unable To Perform (PUP) List

There are two types of Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) lists. One is the Active/PUP, the other is the Reserve/PUP.

The Active/PUP is only used in the preseason. The Active/PUP designation is used for players who are unable to start training camp. Once these players are medically cleared, they can immediately join team practices.

Last year, Rolando McClain, Chaz Green, and Darren McFadden were on this list, no player is on this list this year.

The Reserve/PUP is the regular season equivalent of the Active/PUP, but with slightly different rules. A player on the Active/PUP list automatically moves to Reserve/PUP at the end of training camp, provided he hasn't practiced with the team. Once a player moves off the Active/PUP list during camp and starts practicing, he is automatically ineligible for Reserve/PUP.

Complicating things is the fact that once a player is moved to Reserve/PUP, he is automatically excluded from practicing or playing with the team for the first six weeks of the season.

The benefit of placing a player on Reserve/PUP is that the player won't count against the 53-man roster limit. Teams have a six-week window (day after Week 6 to day after Week 11) during which the player can return to practice. If the player is not ready by then, the player either has to be released or moved to season-ending IR. Once a player returns to practice, teams have an extra three-week window before they have to activate the player to the 53-man roster (or release or IR him).

Non-Football Injury (NFI) List

The NFI list is largely similar to the PUP List, except this is for players who suffered their injuries unrelated to NFL football (i.e. away from NFL team activities). Ironically, despite its name, the NFI also covers injuries sustained during activities such as college football. Jaylon Smith suffered his injury in college, which is why he's on the list. Darren McFadden sufferd his injury in a fall that was not part of NFL conditioning, NFL practice, or an NFL game, and neither was Damien Wilson's paintball accident a part of any NFL activity.

The Active/NFI designation means players can return to practice at any time once medically cleared. For the Cowboys, this applies to McFadden and Wilson, both of whom are expected to resume practice shortly. It also applies to Smith, even if his recovery will take much longer than camp. Once any of these players start practicing with the team, they lose their NFI designation.

The Reserve/NFI designation is applied to players who will not return to the active roster during the current season. Typically, this would be applied to rookies who enter the league with a pre-existing injury and have the equivalent of a red-shirt season. In theory, this would apply to Smith, but the team has made noises about keeping him on the active roster for the season. This could also be applied to players who suffer an injury while handling a gun in a nightclub or playing with fireworks, to use just two random examples.

For both the PUP and the NFI lists, "Active" designates a player who counts against the NFL roster limits, "Reserve" designates a player who doesn't count against a roster limit, be it the 90-man, 75-man, or the 53-man limit. However, regardless of active/reserve status, all players on PUP and NFI (and on injured reserve) count against a team's salary cap during the season

One key difference between NFI and PUP lists is that teams can withhold parts of the salary of players on NFI. This largely punitive and seldom-used option is available when a team feels it is not responsible for injuries suffered by players on their own time, but it is not as easy to implement as it may sound.

After Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg in 2008, the Giants tried to withhold a portion of his bonus. That attempt was ultimately denied by a special master, who ruled Burress' taking a gun into a night club didn't constitute a "willful" act to prevent himself from reporting for practice and games.

Injured Reserve

Teams can place any number of players on injured reserve (technically: "reserve/injured list"). Any player placed on the IR list counts against the cap, but not against the roster limit. These players are ineligible to play again (for the same team) during the ongoing season. They may not practice with the team at any time, but can attend team meetings, and generally be around the team as much as they like.

Sean Lee for example was placed on season-ending IR after his ACL injury on the first day of OTAs two years ago, but took advantage of the ability to "be around the team"; in training camp and throughout the season, when he took on a mentoring role for his fellow linebackers.

IR (designated for return)

The league changed the injured reserve with return designation so that you no longer have to designate the player ahead of time. Teams are still only allowed to bring one player back, but they can bring back any one player they've placed on injured reserve.

Previously, if a team wanted to use the one return designation spot, they had to declare it when the player was placed on injured reserve. Now, they can just see who is getting healthy quickly, and take them off IR. Once they take that player off IR, the rest of the IR players must remain on the list.

Suspended List

Players who have been suspended by the NFL are not eligible for PUP (unless they have a pre-existing injury situation that's keeping them out of practice). Suspended players are allowed to practice and play in preseason games, as DeMarcus Lawrence is expected to. Randy Gregory and Rolando McClain will also enter the season on the suspended list, whether they will be available during camp and preseason is anybody's guess. During final roster cuts, all three will be moved to an inactive or reserve list and will not count against the 53-man roster limit.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Blogging The Boys Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your Dallas Cowboys news from Blogging The Boys