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New roster rule could impact Detroit Lions' decisions during roster cutdowns

This past offseason, the NFL made several changes to how teams can use the PUP/NFI lists and the Detroit Lions are considering using them during the roster reduction phase.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL is constantly making decisions on how to keep the league competitive while also adjusting to the ever-changing evolution of the game. During the 2022 offseason, the NFL announced key changes to how teams can address injured reserve, practice squad rules, and offseason cutdown dates, but there was also a slightly lessen known change to the physically unable to perform (PUP) and non-football injury (NFI) lists.

Here are the basics that Detroit Lions fans need to know.

First, let’s address how players end up on the PUP/NFI lists. During the offseason, players who were injured during football activities or on their own can be placed on the active/PUP or active/NFI lists, respectively. If a team wishes to add a player to this list, they must do so ahead of training camp, and a player remains ineligible to practice while on the list. Players can be removed at any time during training camp, but no player can be placed on either list once they begin practicing.

This offseason, the Lions placed eight players on active/PUP/NFI lists, and five still carry those designations at the time of the publishing of this article: Romeo Okwara, Josh Paschal, Jerry Jacobs, and Jason Cabinda are on active/PUP, while Jameson Williams is currently on the active/NFI list.

Second, how players count towards roster count during different phases. During training camp, players on the active/PUP/NFI count towards the team’s 90-man roster count, but during the regular season, they do not count towards the team’s active roster—similarly to a player being placed on injured reserve—and the designation name changes to reserve/PUP or reserve/NFI.

Third, eligibility options during offseason (active/PUP/NFI) versus regular season (reserve/PUP/NFI). While players can be removed from these lists at any time during training camp, once they are placed on the reserve/PUP/NFI list, they are ineligible to play for the first four weeks of the regular season.

Fourth, new rule change: Early placement on reserve/PUP/NFI. One of the new rule changes this past offseason allowed teams to place players on the reserve/PUP/NFI lists earlier in the offseason.

Previously, teams could place players on the reserve/PUP/NFI only during the final cutdown phase—reducing the roster to 53 players—but now, teams are eligible to place players on the reserve/PUP/NFI during the 85 to 80-player roster reduction phase—which is required to be done by Tuesday, August 23rd this season.

Fifth, the advantage of early PUP/NFI placement. Because players on the reserve/PUP/NFI do not count against the active roster, teams may place those players they’re confident will end up on the reserve/PUP/NFI on the list early so they can remove them from their roster count.

For example, Romeo Okwara is still recovering from his Achilles injury and is expected to be placed on the reserve/PUP list. Previously, they would have to carry him on the active roster all training camp before they could place him on the reserve list ahead of final cuts. Now, they can place him on the reserve/PUP list early and therefore remove him from the active roster.

This is valuable because it means the Lions would have fewer players to waive/release in between pre-season games 2 and 3. If the Lions opted to place all five current players on the active/PUP/NFI lists onto the reserve/PUP/NFI, they theoretically would not have to make any cuts during the 85 to 80 player reduction phase.

On Tuesday, Lions coach Dan Campbell said that he, general manager Brad Holmes, and head athletic trainer Kevin Bastin have considered taking advantage of the new rule.

“There’s a couple of moves that we can make between 85 and 80 as it pertains to PUP (and NFI),” Campbell noted. “And that’s one of those (Jerry Jacobs’ recovery status) we’re talking about right now. Do you use that (advantage) sooner than later? Do you wait and see where he is at? Do we pull it (the PUP designation) earlier because we feel like he has really progressed to that point? That’s something that Brad (Holmes) and myself, and Kevin Bastin have been talking about.”

The Lions must have reduced their roster from 90 to 85 players by Tuesday, August 16, then on Tuesday, August 23 they can begin taking advantage of the new rule, and finally, the roster will be cut down to 53 players by Tuesday, August 30.

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