Active/PUP vs. Reserve/PUP

 The Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list is often misunderstood and misinterpreted. When a player reports to training camp he has to take a clearance or entrance physical to make sure he is healthy enough to practice with the team. If he does not “pass” his physical upon reporting to training camp, he is placed on the PUP list. Here, we will explain the difference between “Active”/PUP and “Reserve”/PUP.

Let’s start at the common point of after the NFL draft to keep things simple. If a player, drafted or undrafted, rookie or veteran, obtains any type of injury during post draft minicamp, or any Organized Team Activity (OTA), he will have that injury re-examined once he reports to training camp. The team trainers and doctors will review his injury status and make a determination if the player has recovered well-enough from his injury to resume practicing with the team at training camp. If everything is OK, and there are no lingering issues regarding the sustained injury, the player is cleared for practice and counts towards the 80-man roster limit. There is no PUP designation associated in this instance.

If the player reports to training camp, undergoes his physical, and the previously sustained injury still persists, then the player will not be allowed to participate in any individual or team practice activities until the injury he sustained is suitably healed through rehabilitative measures. This is considered a “failed” physical. However, the player is allowed to attend all team meetings. Because there is an 80-man roster limit at all times, the player still counts against the overall roster limit, and no other player can be signed in his place. This makes for some creative roster maneuvering in the event more players sustain injuries during training camp and a new player needs to be signed to the active roster. A player in who “fails” his physical may then be traded, waived, or terminated. If neither of those things happens, then the player will be placed in the category “Active”/PUP. Further complicating the issue and making it challenging for teams to keep a healthy roster of players and not just hide them out on the sidelines, a player may only stay in the category of Active/PUP up to the time of the final roster cuts (September 5, 2009).

Lastly, if a player does not recover from his injury in enough time before the final roster cuts take place, he will be placed on the “Reserve”/PUP list. Here, the player will still remain a part of the team, but is not allowed to participate in the organized practices with the team until after the sixth week of the regular season. While in the Reserve/PUP category a team may allow the payer to attend meetings, and he may practice with the team for three weeks before the team must activate him, release him, or keep him in his current category. No player on Reserve/PUP may be traded to another team. But remember, a player can always be waived or terminated by the team at any stage of him being placed as Active/PUP or Reserve/PUP.

There are some other small details that are not worth mentioning, because further discussion will complicated these examples. The previous examples explain the basic principles and help with the road map of understanding how the PUP list functions for the NFL.

In the words of G.I. Joe, “Now you know, and knowing is half the battle!”

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