Injured players are eligible to make their return this week

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Three Cincinnati Bengals players are eligible to begin practicing this week after spending the entire season on their respective injury lists.

Earlier this year the NFL made slight alterations to their rules regarding the Physically Unable to Perform list, allowing players additional time to recover from their respective injuries. Players that were placed on PUP earlier this year, will be allowed to practice this week. Once they strap up their gear and head to the practice field, teams are given 21 days before they're required to make a decision on that player. Per the language in the league rules:

Commencing on the day after the conclusion of the sixth regular season weekend (October 15) and continuing through the day after the conclusion of the 11th regular season weekend (November 19), clubs are permitted to begin practicing players on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform for a period not to exceed 21 calendar days. Pads and helmets are permitted during the 21-day period. At any time during the 21-day practice period, or prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the day after the conclusion of the 21-day period, clubs are permitted to restore such players on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform to their Active/Inactive List.

Essentially the new rule allows teams additional time before they're required to make a decision on those players. Prior to the rule changes, teams were required to make that decision by the tenth week in the regular season. Now a player can start practicing on November 19, and still be granted 21 days before a decision is required.

Chris Pressley (knee) and Zac Robinson are eligible to come off PUP this week. Once they do, Cincinnati will have 21 days to make a decision. Will they be placed on the 53-man roster, waived, or placed on Injured Reserve to end their respective seasons? Considering that Pressley and Robinson have no clear route to the 53-man roster right now, don't be surprised if the Bengals hold both players in their hip pocket for as long as possible as a contingency from another injury. Granted, the NFLPA could complain if either player upsets the delicate balance, but we doubt that'll happen.

Also of note, Andrew Hawkins, who was placed on IR with a designation to return after suffering a high-ankle sprain during training camp (the first family night at PBS), is eligible to begin practicing this week. Don't expect any changes on the roster just yet. Hawkins isn't eligible to play until week nine and the team will receive a roster exemption until he's placed on the 53-man roster.

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