NFL Practice Squad and PUP list: Rules, salary and roster implications

St. Louis Rams WR Austin Pettis is one of four receivers eligible for the practice squad.

With roster cuts on the horizon for tomorrow and next week, you will hear more and more talk about the NFL practice squad and the physically unable to perform list. The PUP list was actually in the headlines today as Peyton Manning was added back to the active roster. The St. Louis Rams lack anyone with that kind of profile for the PUP, and the practice squad is devoid of headline grabbers by nature. Still, now gives us as good a time as any to review both the practice squad and PUP list rules. 

Practice squad

Teams can sign no more than 8 players to their practice squad, which happens after teams cut down to 53-man rosters on September 5. 

Practice squad eligibility did not change with the new CBA. To be eligible for the practice squad a player must:

  • Have no prior Accrued Seasons in the NFL (An accrued season is six or more games on the active roster);
  • Have one prior Accrued Season in which the player was on the active roster for no more than 8 games; and,
  • Have been on the practice squad with a particular team no more than 2 prior seasons unless the team never had their active roster go below 53 players during the two years the player served on the practice squad. If that is the case, the player is eligible for a third practice squad season.

Yes, points one and two are confusing. Talk to the NFL if you don't like it. 

A practice squad player receives a salary of $5,700 per week, but can be let go at any time, losing his salary. A good reminder that not everyone in the NFL is a millionaire. 

As you know, practice squad players can be signed away by other teams at any point in time. The catch with this rule is that a team cannot sign a player from another practice squad one week before they play that team. When a team does sign away a player from a practice squad, the new player counts against their 53-man roster for three weeks, even if they release him after a week. Similar rules apply when teams promote a player from the practice squad. He counts against the roster for three weeks, and gets paid a weekly salary at the veteran or rookie minimum. That player is guaranteed three weeks of salary, even if he is cut during that time. Those three game roster requirements do not carry over if there are less than three weeks left in the season. 

Something to think about in the Rams wide receiver race: only Austin Pettis, Greg Salas, Greg Matthews and Dominique Curry are eligible for the practice squad. 

Physically Unable to Perform list

Many brought up the PUP list when the Rams lost CB Jerome Murphy to a fractured ankle early in camp. Murphy was not eligible because he began camp on the active roster. Only players who cannot practice at the start of training camp can be placed on the PUP list. Those players can be moved to the active roster at any time. 

Only second-year CB Marquis Johnson is on the Rams' PUP list. 

If Johnson begins the season on the PUP list, he cannot practice or play for at least six weeks. PUP players can begin practicing after six weeks, and their teams have three weeks from the time the player starts practicing to add them to the active roster. If the player does not practice within that three week window, they have to be left on the PUP list the entire season. 

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