PUP stands for Physically Unable to Perform, while IR stands for Injured Reserve.

Numerous players will receive these labels before the start of the NFL regular season as rosters are created and Week 1 of the new season is approaching. As the upcoming NFL campaign looks set to start, it’s important to understand the various injury lists as well as other roster designations. Remember that players cannot longer be given the Physically Unable to Perform label once rosters are finalised.

Physically Unable to Perform (PUP)

A player who was on the Active/PUP list throughout training camp may be moved to the Reserve/PUP list if he isn’t cleared to play by the end of the preseason. This bans him from participating in practice and games for the first six weeks of the NFL season.

Players can only be placed on the regular-season PUP list if they spent the entire summer on the Active/PUP list and never participated in a game or practise with their team.

A roster slot must be used for him or he must be placed on Injured Reserve (IR) to begin the season if an injured player is not placed on PUP at the start of the year.

Again, if a player is placed on PUP at the beginning of the regular season, they are ineligible to play until Week 7 of the regular season.

Players on the Reserve/PUP list are prohibited from participating in practices and games for the first six weeks of the regular season per rule. Teams have 21 days to decide whether to practise throughout that additional six-week window, if they want to do so:

  • Activate the player and add him to the 53-man roster
  • Waive or release the player
  • Take no action and maintain his PUP status. A player might be held out and not activated until deep into December if teams make the most of all their windows, like the Cincinnati Bengals did with AJ McCarron in 2014

Injured Reseve (IR)

At the beginning of the season, NFL teams are allowed to list any number of players on Injured Reserve. Every player on the IR list counts toward the salary cap but not toward the 53-man roster restriction.

These athletes cannot play for the same team again during the respective season, but they are still free to be cut and sign with another one after being released. Although they are not permitted to practise with their squad at any time, these players are allowed to be present during team meetings.

The NFL modified the IR rules for the first time last year, in 2021, allowing two NFL players from each team to be eligible to leave the list after eight weeks.

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