The PUP list is an oft-mentioned entity during NFL cutdown week, but what exactly is it? You might know that it has something to do with NFL injuries. But what does PUP stand for, what are the rules around the NFL PUP list, and how does it differ from injured reserve (IR)?
The NFL PUP List, Explained
PUP is an acronym that stands for “physically unable to perform.”
The PUP list is a roster designation NFL teams can use for players who were injured before training camp began.
When a player is placed on the PUP list at the start of training camp, he is put on the active/PUP list. He counts against the team’s 90-man roster and can participate in meetings but is not allowed to practice. If the player practices — even once — during training camp, he must leave the PUP list and be activated to the club’s roster.
The vast majority of players on the active/PUP list will be removed and activated before training camp ends.
However, if a player is still injured by the time the regular season arrives, he’ll be transferred to the reserve/PUP list.
Once a player is placed on the reserve/PUP list, he must miss at least the first four games of the season. He will not count against his team’s 53-man roster during this time.
After the player’s four-game absence, his team receives a five-week window to allow the player to begin practicing. Once he begins practicing, the team gets a three-week window to decide to place him on the 53-man roster.
If the player never returns to practice or returns to practice but isn’t healthy enough to return to the active roster by the time those deadlines pass, he must stick on the PUP list for the rest of the season.
There are currently 20 players on the NFL PUP list, including stars like Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, Colts running back Jonathan Taylor, and Buffalo Bills pass rusher Von Miller.
Only three teams have multiple players on PUP: the Los Angeles Chargers (WR Jalen Guyton and DL Otito Ogbonnia), the New England Patriots (EDGE Trey Flowers and S Cody Davis), and the Seattle Seahawks (DTs Austin Faoliu and Bryan Mone).
How Does the PUP List Differ From IR?
While the PUP list and injured reserve are both injury-related lists that enable NFL teams to manage their rosters effectively, the rules around the two lists are quite different.
Players are only eligible for the PUP list — either the active or the reserve version — if they were injured coming into training camp. Once a player practices, they can no longer be placed on the PUP list during that season.
If a player goes on IR at any point during the summer (including training camp, the preseason, or any time before his team assembles its 53-man roster), they can no longer play for the team that season.
The player would have to either remain on IR for the entire year or agree to an injury settlement to be removed from the club’s IR list.
If a team wants an injured player to go on IR to begin the season but remain eligible to return later in the year, the player has to be carried on the club’s initial 53-man roster. The team can then place him on IR the following day.
Any player on injured reserve must miss at least four games before returning to the active roster. NFL teams are allowed eight IR activations per season. A player can be designated to return up to two times, but each return counts against the team limit.