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The Cincinnati Bengals have cleared their slate of injuries, placing a handful of players on season-ending Injured Reserve while also converting their PUP/NFI crew. Vontaze Burfict (PUP), Sean Porter (PUP), and offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi (NFI) were all placed on their respective injury lists through training camp and now, the regular-season versions of those lists. For our purposes, the Physically Unable to Perform list is similar to the Non-Football Injury lists. What should we expect with these three players?
DO THEY COUNT AGAINST THE 53-MAN ROSTER?No. PUP allows teams to apply roster exemptions while keeping their players under contract with the ability to play later in the season -- this is why most teams liberally apply PUP at the start of training camp. Had this not happened, Cincinnati would have to waste a roster spot or force those players onto IR. Once someone is activated from PUP onto the active roster, Cincinnati will have to make a corresponding move by releasing/waiving someone to open a spot.
HOW LONG ARE THEY OUT?By rule, players on the Physically Unable to Perform list (and NFI) are excluded from practicing and playing during the first six weeks of the regular season. They're allowed to do conditioning work with the trainers -- similar to what they did during training camp on the Active/PUP list.
WHEN CAN THEY PRACTICE AND PLAY?After six weeks are in the books, teams have another six week window for that player to begin practicing. If they're unable to practice when this window expires, they remain on the PUP list for the rest of the season. Once they do practice, teams have 21 days to make a decision: 1) Activate the player to the 53-man roster 2) Release/waive the player or 3) Do nothing and keep him on the Physically Unable to Perform list. If teams maximize all their windows, a player could held out and not activated until well into December (like, AJ McCarron in 2014).
WHEN WILL SEE THESE PLAYERS?It seemed that Cincinnati's coaching staff was harboring uncertainty on their decision, forcing the conclusion that Vontaze Burfict is extremely close. "It was a very difficult decision and one that frankly could have broken either way," Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said this weekend. "Vontaze has done a really good job." Bengals linebackers coach Matt Burke said echoing similar sentiments, and calling it a "hard decision."
Cedric Ogbuehi, recovering from an ACL injury suffered during his 2014 college bowl game, seems to be following a similar narrative with the belief he'll be able to play this year. Sean Porter is unknown -- and frankly, we're not sure if the team will activate him over any of the linebackers currently on the roster.