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  • Writer's pictureBrian Scott

NFL Injury Reports – Use Them To Build Your Fantasy Football Roster – Part 1

Updated: Oct 19, 2023

Understanding how to decipher NFL injury reports is vital for the success of your fantasy team throughout the regular season. Having even basic knowledge of how injured players are assessed, diagnosed, and treated can help make personnel decisions less stressful and more advantageous as you develop your roster.

Preparing your roster should begin prior to training camp. This is when injured athletes are designated to either the PUP (physically unable to perform) or IR (injured reserve) list. Players injured during the pre-season should also be closely monitored. The deadlines for roster cuts loom closer to the start of regular season play. Certain designations carry with them roster implications and may thus impact the team’s decision to activate them. There are three designations that fantasy team owners should be very well versed with as we near our second round of roster cuts on August 23rd (from 85 to 80).

NFL Injury Reports: Active/Reserve PUP and IR

Active PUP List

This designation is given prior to training camp to those athletes with either a football or non-football-related injury. This includes those players who were injured last season, in the off-season, or had surgery and are not cleared to play. These players are allowed to be present in camp and team facilities. They can rehab, do conditioning work with the medical staff, and even do some on-field activities. But they are limited to individual training only, and can not suit up with the team during practice.

Players can be added to the Active PUP list without any penalty. But they do count against the roster cap at that time. Only after they are taken off the PUP list can they resume practicing and competing in team drills and pre-season games. Players that can not be cleared off the Active PUP before the August 30th roster cuts down from 80 to 53, will have to either be placed on the Reserve PUP list or IR. At that time they will not count against the 53-man roster cap until they are activated.

Reserve PUP List

The Reserve PUP list is designated for those players who are not yet cleared to play at the time of the final roster cut down. Teams have the option of taking a player who was on the Active PUP and placing them on Reserve PUP. In doing so, teams hope that the player will be ready during the season to rejoin the team. New in 2022 is that players on the Reserve PUP must remain on that list for the first four regular season games. They may then return to the active roster.

After four regular season games have passed, there is then a five-week window that opens. During this time, the player can begin to practice with the team. Once the player has resumed practicing, the team has 21 days to make a decision. Either they activate the player or keep them on the Reserved PUP for the remainder of the season. Once a player is off Reserve PUP and active on the roster, a coinciding roster transaction (release/waive player) must happen. This maintains the 53-man roster cap.

Injured Reserve (IR)

The Injured Reserve (IR) designation is typically used for players with season-ending injuries. This year teams are allowed a total of eight player IR designations. Each player on IR is allowed a maximum of two returns to the active roster. However, each time any player is activated off IR, this counts towards the team’s eight designations. Players on IR must sit out at least four regular season games before being allowed to return to the active roster.

A player can be added to the IR at any point starting from training camp on into the regular season. But no more IR designations or callbacks to the active roster can take place during the last five weeks of the regular season and into the playoffs. The changes made this year grew out of some changes that were enacted due to COVID-19 in the 2020-21 season. The NFL and NFLPA came together and developed new rules for 2022 to the IR and reserve PUP list specifically. As this relates to Fantasy Football, it is important to pay attention to the nature of the athlete’s injury, the projected timetable to return, and what list the athlete is placed on to start the regular season.

Stay Tuned for Part II

In Part II, our next article will focus on some of the more intricate details to be aware of when reading or listening to NFL injury reports. In learning more about some of the smaller details, it can help to make more educated guesses about the timing of an injured player’s return and what to expect in terms of their immediate performance.

The Injured List Podcast® LLC is a proud member of Belly Up Sports Media and Belly Up Fantasy. We are also a paid brand ambassador for SeatGeek ticket app.

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