Roster Rules


With Training Camp nearly upon us, I started thinking about (with a little help from bfree2bronc and CoastalBronco) some of the options available to Coach McDaniels as the roster is finalized for the 2009 season. Some of these were brought up in the Comment section of my last post here. However, there were questions unanswered too, so I am going to condense them into this post, for continuity sake.




The National Football league has an established set of roster rules to govern the players for each franchise. Understanding these rules is crucial to the successful management of an NFL team. As of July 2009, the Broncos were allowed, by NFL rule, to open summer camp with up to 80 players.

In the week of August 13-17th, Preseason starts, with each NFL team playing 4 games. By the 3rd week, (September 1st), All NFL Rosters must reduce to to 75 players. 4 days later, (September 5th), they must reduce again, this time down to to 53 players. All other players must either be waived(cut) or placed into an alternative designation.


After each team has finalized its 53-man roster, every team in the league has 24 hours to sign any player who has been waived. Once this 24-hour period has passed, each team may sign up to 8 players to form its practice squad.

These 8 players practice with their teams but cannot dress on game days, unless they are added to the official 53-man roster (in the place of another player, of course). Teams may sign a player from another team's practice squad only if they immediately add the player to the 53-man roster. So, on September 6th, teams will establish their Practice Squads.


The Active/Inactive List is the principal foundation of an NFL club. It consists of all players under contract who are eligible for preseason, regular-season, and postseason games. All Teams are permitted an Active List of 45 players and an Inactive List of 8 players for each regular-season and postseason game. Provided that a club has 2 QB's on its 45-player Active List, a 3rd QB from its Inactive List is permitted to dress for the game, but can only play in emergencies. If he enters the game during the 1st three quarters, the other 2 QB's cannot return to that game. 

These limits are in effect throughout the regular season and postseason and is applicable to players on a team’s Active, Inactive, and certain Exempt Lists, players on the Practice Squad, and players on any of the Reserve Lists.

In accordance to the CBA, Inactive List players will receive the same benefits and protections as Active List players.

Teams may protect their rights to given players even if those players are not on the 53-man roster in these designations:

Roster status          Corresponding roster designation
IR                                Reserve/Injured
Waived/Injured         Waived/Injured
Injured                       Practice Squad/Injured
Active/PUP                Active/Physically Unable to Perform
PUP                           Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform
Active/NF-Inj.            Active/Non-Football Injury
Active/NF-Ill.             Active/Non-Football Illness
NF-Inj.                       Reserve/Non-Football Injury
NF-Ill.                        Reserve/Non-Football Illness
Did Not Report        Reserve/Did Not Report
Left Camp                Reserve/Left Camp
Susp.                        Reserve/Suspended
Military                      Reserve/Military
Exempt.                    Exempt/Commissioner's Permission
Future Contracts    Reserve/Future


The ACTIVE and RESERVE labels of these designations determine how a player counts against the roster. If a player is Active, he would count as being part of the 53 man roster. If he is in Reserve, he is protected "property," meaning he is not part of the 53 man active roster, but the team still holds the rights to him, so no other team may claim him.

In lieu of waiving a player, an NFL team may place a player on the RESERVE LIST. This list allows a club to retain an inactive roster spot for players who are unable to practice or play with their club because of injury, retirement, military service, league suspension, or other circumstances, and are not immediately available for participation with a club.

There are 3 primary Reserve List categories in which a club may place a player for football-related injuries and non-football injuries; the Injured Reserve (IR), the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP), and the Non Football Injury or Illness List.

The difference between the IR and PUP lists is that a player on IR may not return during the season, while a player on the PUP list may return to active duty during the season.


When a player is injured badly enough that they cannot play, they are placed on injured reserve. Once they are put on IR, they are required to stay there until the end of the regular season. They are not allowed to play in any games and are not allowed to practice with the team either. Once a team puts a player on IR, they can fill his roster spot with another player for the remainder of the season if they wish. While on IR a player will continue to receive his salary and medical care and is permitted to attend meetings. The key benefit of being placed on IR is the club’s ongoing obligation to pay the player’s salary, medical care, and rehabilitation allowing them to recover from injury and get back on the field.


As styg stated, there are two PUP Lists. The RESERVE/PUP, and the ACTIVE/PUP. A player on the PUP List is eligible to receive his salary, but he is ineligible to participate in practices or games.

I cannot state it any better than THIS article by shake n bake from Stampede Blue.

The purpose of the PUP list is to allow teams to keep players that come into the season injured, but are expected to return during the season without having to carry them on the very limited 53 man roster. A player on the PUP list can't practice with the team, but can rehab and attend meetings with the team.

For training camp there are two PUP lists, active and reserve. The reserve PUP is the one you hear about during the regular season. The player can't return until after week 6. After week 6 the team has 3 weeks to IR, release, or add the player to the roster. Players on the reserve PUP list count against the roster limit until the rosters are cut to the final 53, then they don't count for up to 9 weeks of the season.

The active PUP list is for training camp. Players can't practice and can't be put on the list once they have practiced. Players can be taken off the list at any time. Players on the list count against the 80 man camp limit.

A player who fails his club’s pre-season physical at the start of training camp may be placed on the PUP list. That player can attend meetings and do rehab. The team, however, can declare him active any time before the final roster cut the week before the regular season starts.

Shake n Bake goes on;

So why use the active PUP list?
A player must be on the active PUP list to be able to be put on the reserve PUP list.

So the players are being put on the active PUP list to keep the option of the reserve PUP list open. Any player that can't practice at the opening of camp where there is any chance the injury could not be recovered by September 1 (when the 53 man limit applies) they will be put on the list so that the reserve PUP list is an option for them.


A club may place a player on the NFI list if the player fails the club’s pre-season physical because he sustained an injury UNRELATED to football. A player on NFI will not be entitled to receive his salary and is prohibited from practice until the 3 week period beginning the day after his club’s 6th regular-season game. At which time he may be restored to the club's Active/Inactive List. It is not unusual for players to find themselves on NFI after sustaining injuries in the off-season doing other activities other than football.

Players in the category of Reserve/Retired, Reserve/Did Not Report, Reserve/Exclusive Rights, and players who were placed in the category of Reserve/Left Squad in a previous season may not be reinstated during the period from 30 days before the end of the regular season through the postseason.


Occasionally a team has a player on IR but agrees with that player to a cash settlement in exchange for releasing that player. The team benefits by limiting further financial responsibility and player carrying costs while the player benefits both by receiving cash and by becoming eligible to sign with another team and begin playing as soon as physically capable, perhaps even during the same season.


The waiver system is a procedure by which player contracts or NFL rights to players are made available by a club to other clubs in the League. During the procedure, the 31 other clubs either file claims to obtain the players or waive the opportunity to do so; thus the term "waiver."

During the offseason each team has 10 days to file such claims, but from early July through December, they have 24 hours to file a claim for a player that another team has made available, or waive the right to do so. If a player is claimed by two or more teams in this period, priority is based on the inverse won-lost standing of the teams. The team with the worst record has priority.

Under the CBA, from the beginning of the waiver system each year through the trading deadline in mid-October, any veteran who has acquired 4 years of service is not subject to the waiver system. If the club desires to release him, then that player shall be considered an unrestricted FA by termination of his contract. After the trading deadline, such players are subject to the waiver system. If a player passes through waivers unclaimed, he becomes a FA. At this point, he is free to sign with any team, including his previous employer.

Now, I'm not about to make predictions as to which players are going to make up the final roster cuts for the Broncos, but those of you who construct Mock Rosters should take into consideration the options highlighted in this post.   Kirk out.

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR.