IR, PUP, NFI, Covid-19 & Co.

Munich – If a player in the NFL cannot pursue his job, be it due to injury, illness or suspension, he is usually placed on one of the notorious lists to make room in the 53-man roster.

There are a few of these lists – the rules of which have fundamentally changed with the corona pandemic.

ran explains how PUP, IR, NFI and Co. will work in 2021.

Physically Unable to Perform (PUP)

For injured players only, only before Week 1. The list for injuries from the pre-season or off-season workouts. A distinction is made between Active / PUP and Reserve / PUP.

A player who was unable to train before the training camp can be added to the Active / PUP list. If a player takes part in at least one training session in the camp, he can no longer end up on the PUP list.

If a player from the 90-man squad who was on the Active / PUP list during the training camp and did not take part in any training does not get fit by the end of the preseason, i.e. does not pass the official medical check, he can do so before Start of the regular season will be put on the reserve / PUP list.

The player then misses the first 6 weeks of the season, he is not allowed to play or train with the team during this time, but only work with the coaches and take part in meetings. The earliest possible date for the comeback is the 7th matchday.

However, the teams have some time to make their decision. After the 6 weeks on PUP, a window of another 5 weeks opens in which the player has to start training with the team. If he can’t, he’ll stay on the PUP list for the rest of the season.

Once the player starts team training, the franchise has 21 days to decide whether the player is activated for the 53-man squad, fired, or received, or put on the IR list for the remainder of the season.

If all time windows are exhausted, a player can definitely only be activated from the PUP list in December.

Players who are on the reserve / PUP list do not count towards the 53-man roster (but they do belong to the 90-man maximum), but are also not allowed to negotiate with other teams – a good opportunity to recruit long-term injured performers tie.

If an injured player does not land on the PUP list before the start of the regular season, he must either be placed on the IR list or a squad seat must be used for him.

If a player is appointed from the PUP list to the active squad, another player has to give way, be it by dismissal or waiver.

Injured Reserve (IR)

For injured players, before or during the season.

Teams can generally put as many players on the IR list as they want. Players on IR count against the salary cap. You are not allowed to train with the team, but you are allowed to attend meetings.

Prior to 2012, no player on the IR list was allowed to return to the active squad on the same team during the current season. From 2012 it was one, from 2017 two.

Due to the corona pandemic, the rules were relaxed from 2020 to give the teams more flexibility.

All players on IR who have a so-called “Designation to Return” are allowed to return to the active squad after a break of at least 3 games (not weeks) (previously it was 8 weeks). Prerequisite: The player belonged to the 53-man roster on September 1st, i.e. after the final cuts.

The active 53-man squad on match days are not “burdened” by the IR players – here the teams can fill up with players from the Practice Squad, for example.

After the 3 game break (in the playoffs, by the way, unlike in the regular season, Bye Weeks also count as games) the player can return to training. With the first day of training, a time window of 21 days opens in which the player must be reactivated. If he doesn’t, he’ll have to stay on IR for the rest of the season.

For example, if a player is put on the IR list after week 3 and his team has a bye week in week 5, he can play again in week 8 at the earliest. If, on the other hand, a player is placed on the IR list after Week 16 and his team has a bye in the wild card round, he can already participate in the divisional playoffs again.

If a player is activated by IR and then has to be added to the list again, he cannot return a second time.

Non-Football Injury und Non-Football Illness (NFI)

The list for all non-NFL-related injuries and illnesses (except Covid-19) – such as car accidents, college injuries dragged into the rookie year, or long-term illnesses like cancer.

As with PUP, a distinction is made between Active / NFI (during the training camp) and Reserve / NFI (during the regular season).

The regulations of the reserve / NFI have been virtually identical to those of the IR list since 2020: Any number of players from the NFI lists may be activated – previously there was a maximum of two – but only players who joined the 53rd after September 1st -Mann squad belonged to.

The teams do not have to pay a base salary to players on the NFI lists as they are not “responsible” for the injuries / illnesses. As a rule, however, an agreement is made.

Important: Both IR and NFI may only activate players who have suffered a “major” injury. According to the NFL definition, a “major” injury is when the affected player is not able to play or train for at least three weeks.

If a player with a “minor” injury is placed on one of the lists, he or she cannot return, but must be dismissed or checked after passing the medical examination.


For banned players.

Players who have been banned from the NFL for a period of time cannot be added to the PUP list prior to the regular season (unless they had an injury prior to the ban that prevented them from training).

Banned players are allowed to train with the team in the offseason and even play in the preseason. After the final roster cuts, banned players do not count towards the 53-man roster, but are placed on the reserve / suspended list. From this point on, they have to stay away from the team facilities and train alone, away from teammates and coaches.

The day after the suspension expires, players can be activated for the 53-man squad if another player makes room for them.


A list that was introduced before the start of the 2020 season. For players who have Covid-19 or who tested positive.

The rules of the reserve / Covid-19 list have changed slightly in 2021 compared to 2020. If every player remained on this list in 2020 until they were released by a medical certificate, in 2021 a distinction will be made between vaccinated and unvaccinated players.

If a vaccinated player tests positive, he or she must isolate immediately, but can return to the team as long as he shows no symptoms and can present two negative tests every 24 hours. It is theoretically possible for a vaccinated player to train or play again as early as 48 hours after the positive test.

In the case of unvaccinated players, it is sufficient to have close contact with someone who has tested positive, i.e. longer than ten minutes at a distance of less than 1.5 meters without adequate protection. The unvaccinated player then has to be in isolation for five days, even if the first test is negative, and is tested daily. He is only allowed to return to the team if all five tests are negative.

If an unvaccinated player tests positive himself, he must be in quarantine for at least ten days, even if he does not show any symptoms. In general, the downtime depends on the severity of the course of the illness.

Players on the Reserve / Covid-19 list do not count towards the 53-man roster.


Also introduced for the 2020 season. For players who voluntarily suspend the season (mainly because of health concerns). The waiver must be officially announced by a predetermined deadline.

Players on this list do not count towards the 53-man roster and do not count towards the salary cap. Your contract will be “frozen”. Means: In the first season in which you participate again, you will be paid according to the contractual conditions of the first suspended season.

Specifically: In 2020, 67 players dropped out, not a single one in 2021. The players who are active again and are not absent for other reasons will therefore receive the 2020 salary in the current season (minus a small part of the base salary and roster bonuses that were already paid out in 2020).

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