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Explaining injury designations for the 2020 season

Not only is there the regular injury designations, but there a couple of new roster designations in 2020.

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NFL: AUG 30 Bengals Training Camp Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Each team needs to trim their rosters down from 80 players to 53 by Saturday.

As this progresses, terms like PUP, NFI, and IR are going to be used a lot.

During a normal season, these terms can be confusing enough. The nuances of each designation might change year-to-year anyways if the NFL owners or NFLPA thinks there needs to be some change.

But in 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic, things are going to be a little different in an effort to keep the disease from spreading.

So what do all of these acronyms mean?

Physically Unable to Perform (PUP)

The physically unable to perform list is for players who are entering training camp with an injury. There are two designations, active and reserve.

For a player to be placed on the active/PUP list, he must be unable to practice before training camp starts. Both Rodney Anderson and Damion Willis started training camp on the active/PUP list, and Jonah Williams was added to the list last season after injuring his shoulder during rookie camp.

Once training camp starts, a player cannot be placed on the active/PUP list after participating in at least one practice.

If a player is placed on the active/PUP list, he can be activated at any time during training camp. Once the regular season starts, they must either be activated or moved to the reserve/PUP list.

Players on the reserve/PUP list must be inactive for the first six weeks. The team then has a five week window in which to allow that player to begin practice. Once he starts practicing, the team has three weeks to either activate him, waive him, or add him to injured reserve.

Players on the reserve/PUP do not count against the 53-man active roster limit.

Since the Bengals waived Anderson and Willis, they won’t have anyone on the reserve/PUP list this season.

Non-football Injury (NFI)

This is similar to the PUP list, except that, as the name implies, the player in question must be sidelined due to something that is non-football related.

This can anything be from a car accident to an illness (except COVID-19, which we will get to later). Alex Redmond was added to the NFI list this offseason for reasons unknown, but it indicated that his bicep injury from last season was clear.

The NFI list could also apply to rookies who were injured in their last college season. Marcus Bailey and Khalid Kareem were both added to the NFI list at the beginning of camp this year.

Like the PUP list, once a player begins practice, they are permanently removed from the list. Also like the PUP list, players can be on the active/NFI list during training camp, but must either be activated or placed on the reserve/NFI list.

All three players on the active/NFI list have been cleared, so there won’t be anyone on the reserve/NFI list either.

Injured Reserve (IR)

If a player gets injured during training camp or during the regular season, they may be placed on injured reserve.

Typically, once a player is placed on IR, they cannot play for that team for the rest of the season. The only way they can play is if they are released and signed by another team.

Renell Wren is currently on IR after the injury he suffered during training camp. He will not be able to return this season.

However, as of this season, a team may place an unlimited number of players on IR with a designation to return. Anyone on this list can return after three weeks.

Players on IR do not count against the 53-man active roster limit, but the challenge is that a they have to be on the 53-man roster in order to be eligible for return.

This is why the Bengals cut Michael Johnson out of training camp in 2018 and immediately re-signed him. They wanted to add Davontae Harris to IR, and therefore had to keep him on the roster. So they released Johnson, added Harris to IR, then re-signed Johnson.

The Bengals will probably have to do similar roster gymnastics around Trae Waynes. Since Waynes was injured during training camp, he will have to be on the active roster before being added to IR.


This is a designation for players who have been suspended.

Players serving a suspension do not count against the 53-man active roster limit, but when their suspension is over, the team must make corresponding moves to keep the roster to 53.

Redmond started the season on this list last season. He was able to practice during training camp and even play in the preseason, but once the regular season started he was unable to do so until his suspension was served.


This is a special list that will hopefully be in effect for this year only.

The reserve/COVID-19 list is for those who have tested positive for coronavirus or who have been in close contact with someone who has.

For instance, John Ross was placed on this list since he was in contact with his son who had tested positive.

There is no timetable for return from this list. A player remains on this list until they are medically cleared to return. ESPN adds that players may be activated from the list when they are healthy.

Anyone on this list does not count against the 53-man roster.


Again, the name should tell you exactly what this list is. Players who have opted out were placed on this list.

Isaiah Prince and Josh Tupou opted out, but the deadline to opt out has passed, so no one else can be added to this list.