Preseason has come to a close and teams will begin to trim their roster down to 53 for the start of the regular season. There's more to reaching the roster number than just cutting fringe players, as several teams will leverage injured reserve and the physically unable to perform (PUP) lists to reach their target. Today we take a look at what these lists mean and the key players on each list.
Injured reserve used to be a simple affair. If a player was seriously injured and would miss the majority of the year, a team would put them on injured reserve which would end their season, but retain his rights. Last year NFL owners voted for a shift in injured reserve that will be applicable next week. Under the rule a player can be placed on injured reserve after Sept. 4, which doesn't end his season and allows him to return after six weeks. This is an option for teams that have an injured player it wants back this year, but also means teams will need to keep an open roster spot for them while cutting down to 53.
The PUP list is different, and only open to players who have been placed on the PUP this offseason. These players can be transferred to the regular season list, which means they are unable to return until Week 7 of the regular season. Most players will have moved to the PUP list already, meaning they do not count towards a team's 53-man roster.
Players will not be able to be placed on injured reserve and designated for return until this week, but here are the top players who have already been designated to start 2013 on the PUP list.
The Seattle Seahawks have plenty of depth but are lacking players with big-play ability. There's no clear indication when Harvin will be back from hip surgery, but there's no loss in waiting it out and seeing if he'll be available week 7. The potential is there that he can get healthy and give the Seahawks a much-needed boost midway through the season.
Cam Newton is the Carolina Panthers' leader, but the team is looking to balance its offense with more of a running game. Former offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski ignored the run, but his replacement, Mike Shula, embraces it. The team has running backs, but Stewart is Carolina's workhorse and helps set up the play action.
Quinton Patton is emerging for the San Francisco 49ers, but they are in need of their No. 1 receiver for the playoffs. Crabtree is coming off a serious Achilles injury and it seems like a long shot that he'll be ready by Week 7. Ultimately there's no downside in keeping the option open just in case, which is where so many of these players fall.
The Cowboys cant afford to be without their keystone at defensive tackle as they move to a 4-3 defense. All signs pointed to Ratliff being ready but his recovery was delayed by a series of small injuries. He should be ready by Week 7, and this is a precaution that allows Dallas to save a roster spot while he recovers.
A reliable pass rush is something that has evaded the San Diego Chargers lately, and losing 2012's first-round pick, Melvin Ingram, hurt them. He tore his ACL just prior to training camp, which makes it an unlikely proposition he can return -- but players have healed quickly in the past. It's unlikely the Chargers will turn to Ingram unless they're in the playoff hunt, which is difficult in the AFC West with the Denver Broncos.