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NFL training camp 2018: Explaining PUP list rules, designations, deadlines

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An explainer on how the NFL’s PUP list works.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday, the Detroit Lions placed Ezekiel Ansah on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list (again). Considering Ansah’s lengthy injury history and the fact that the team is paying him $17.1 million in guaranteed money, this has caused a minor panic among Lions nation.

But before you start thinking about collapsing into a state of depression, let’s clear some things up about the PUP list and what it actually means.

What is the PUP list?

The Physically Unable to Perform list is a designation given to injured players prior to training camp. If a player is placed on the PUP list, they are ineligible to practice with the team because of a football-related injury.

When can a player go on the PUP list?

A player must be placed on the PUP list before training camp. Any players that suffer injuries after the start of training camp cannot be placed on the PUP list. They may be placed on injured reserve (IR), which would end their season. (Side note: Players placed on IR during the preseason are not eligible to return that season. If placed on IR during the start of the regular season, a player may return to practice after six weeks, and return to play after eight weeks).

During the preseason, a player on the PUP list counts against the 90-man roster.

If the player is still injured at the end of the preseason, the team may choose to place the player on the regular season PUP (officially known as the reserve-PUP list). A team cannot place a player on the regular season PUP unless that player started training camp on the PUP list and was never removed from it. A player on the regular season PUP list does not count against the 53-man roster.

When can a player come off the PUP list?

If it’s the preseason PUP list (officially known as the active-PUP list), the player can come off any time before the 53-man roster deadline.

If it’s the regular season PUP list, the player must sit out the first six weeks of the season. He does not count against the roster, but once those first six weeks are up, the team has another six-week window to make the next decision on the injured player. The team can either place the player on injured reserve, release him, or return him to practice. Once the player practices, another countdown starts. The team then has three weeks to decide whether the player will be activated to the 53-man roster or will be permanently placed on injured reserve.

What does this mean for Ziggy?

For Ansah, this means that he could come off the list at any time. However, if he’s not healthy enough to play by Week 1, the Lions could choose to place him on the reserve-PUP list. That would result in Ansah missing, at the very least, the Lions’ first six weeks of the season.

Conversely, if the Lions decide to activate him from the preseason PUP list at some point during training camp, he immediately becomes ineligible for the regular season PUP and would not be forced to miss the first six weeks. He could practice immediately and play in the Lions’ preseason games. If he were to suffer another injury or re-aggravate his current injury, the only injury designation option would be injured reserve.