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NFL roster cuts 2017: Explaining PUP, NFI, IR and other injury designations

Everything you need to know about the many roster designations an NFL player can be given heading into the regular season.

Cincinnati Bengals v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals have placed a few players on Injured Reserve to start the 2017 NFL season. But what is IR and what are the other injury designations a player can be given heading into the 2017 NFL season?

We break down the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, Non-Football Injury (NFI) list, Injured Reserve and other roster designations to know if you’re a fan of the NFL.

Physically Unable to Perform

If by the time roster cuts roll around, a player isn't medically cleared and if he was on the Active/PUP list during training camp, he can be transferred to the Reserve/PUP, which prevents that player from playing and practicing during the first six weeks of the season. Players are only eligible for PUP if they were on the Active/PUP list all summer and did not play or practice with their team at any point.

The good news is PUP allows teams to apply roster exemptions while keeping their players under contract with the ability to play later in the season, which is why most teams apply PUP at the start of training camp for any injured players. If an injured player isn’t placed on PUP at the beginning of the year, a roster spot must be used on him, or he must be placed on IR. Once someone is activated from PUP onto the active roster, the team will have to make a corresponding move by releasing/waiving someone to open a spot.

By rule, players on Reserve/PUP and Reserve/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.

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 PUP list. If teams maximize all their windows, a player could be held out and not activated until well into December, just like the Bengals did with AJ McCarron in 2014.

Players can only be placed on the PUP list prior to the start of Week 1. The designation is not available once the regular season begins. This is only for players who have injuries coming into an NFL season.

Injured Reserve

NFL teams are permitted to place any number of players on Injured Reserve. Any player placed on the IR list counts against the salary cap, but not against the roster limit. These players are ineligible to play again for the same team during the current season, but they can be cut and sign with another team. These players may not practice with their team at any time, but can attend team meetings and be around the team. This year for the first time, two NFL players from each team will be eligible to come off IR after eight weeks of being on the list...

IR-Return Designation

Not everyone who ends up on IR has to see their season end for good. Players must remain on IR for eight weeks before being eligible to rejoin their teams in Week 9 via the IR-Return Designation. The NFL recently changed the IR-return designation so that teams are allowed to bring two players back from IR.

Previously, the rule allowed just one player to return from the list, though most teams have more than one injured player capable of returning at some point in the season.

That was a quandary the Bengals faced last year when running back Cedric Peerman and cornerback William Jackson III were both healthy enough to come off of IR, but Peerman ended up getting the one to get the only nod. Had this new rule been in place, both players would have been able to come off IR.

Last year, the NFL changed the IR with return designation so that you no longer have to designate the player who will get the designation at the time they are placed on the list. Now, teams can bring back any two players they've placed on IR at any time after the eight week mandate to be on the list has been met.

Previously, if a team wanted to use the one return designation spot, they had to declare it when the player was placed on IR. Now, they can just see who is getting healthy quickly, and take them off IR after they’ve been on the list for eight weeks (or more).

One constraint here is that a player must be on the 53-man roster in Week 1 to be eligible for the IR designation to return. That means, anyone who was placed on IR before roster cuts were made to trim the roster down to 53 players is not eligible.

For example, the Bengals used a roster spot on quarterback Jeff Driskel on Saturday, but he’s expected to be moved on IR on Monday. Then, the Bengals can bring him back, after eight weeks of the season, if they choose to use one of the two return designations on the quarterback.

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 during the offseason and play in preseason games.

During final roster cuts, suspended players are moved to a Suspended List and do not count against the 53-man roster limit. They are not allowed to be around NFL team facilities while being forced to train on their own, absent from their teammates and coaches.

Adam Jones is currently suspended for Week 1 and does not count toward the initial 53-man roster. He will be allowed to rejoin the Bengals on the Monday after the team’s game against the Baltimore Ravens. Vontaze Burfict is suspended for Weeks 1-3 and can return to the team on the Monday of Week 4. Corresponding roster moves will need to be made for Jones and Burfict to return to the 53-man roster upon the completion of their suspensions.