While the NFL fans of the world are frothing and chomping at the preseason bit, there are some that aren’t. Soon, the line: “Coach wants to see you in his office” will be uttered to players putting all they’ve got on the line.
The first bit of roster-trimming -during offseason- is prior to training camps where most of the now 90-man roster (up from 80) is on the active list. However, in just about two weeks -under NFL bylaws- first “active” (hark back to this word repeatedly, later) list cuts are on the Tuesday after the third preseason weekend: August 27, by 4:00pm EST. The roster must be slimmed down to 75 active players, so there are now 15 men fighting for their Big Blue lives in the next few weeks.
Those slashes that bear the “final” tag are set for Friday, August 31st, by 9:00pm EST. 32 NFL teams reduce to a 53-man active/inactive roster – that’s 37 fewer members that they entered training camp with. Only eight players (if eligible) can be placed on the team’s practice squad (not active players and not securing them to the team – meaning they’re not “safe” from another team’s claiming).
You may notice that this year’s cut-downs are one day earlier than normal since the World Champion New York Football Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys regular season opener was changed to a day earlier: Wednesday, September 5th (instead of the obligatory/annual Thursday opener).
Some FYI: Those eight Practice Squad Guys and Players on Injured Reserve (IR) and Physically-Unable-to-Perform (PUP) lists (since the beginning of July) count towards the 90-man limit. Since teams clearly want to take full advantage of the quantity and quality of active players on the roster before first cuts, they use waivers (remember?). Revisiting this briefly, in order to get an injured player not to count against the time-of-the-season limit (while said player is on IR/PUP during the offseason), is to waive the player with an injury designation (waived/injured) but this leaves them exposed to be picked up by another team. The Jake Ballard decision won’t be revisited. We all know why the Giants attempted this “waive” when they did.
A team will not usually waive a player on Physically-Unable since they consider it temporary and expect him to come back and be of value to the team at some point during the season (even though they do count against the ultimate 90-man limit—not “active”), unless they are going to miss significant time into the season due to their injury (Reserve/PUP). Players must be placed on PUP prior to training camp. Once they begin actual camp practice they are no longer eligible to be placed on the PUP list (Think DB Terrell Thomas). Most players who are on active/PUP will be removed sometime during camp (if healthy enough). Teams would clearly rather use this roster spot until said player is healthy rather than risk losing them to a waiver claim. Easy enough, eh?
So while the huge burst of excitement is there for the fans, it’s not necessarily there for all involved. Consider the on-the-bubble guys and those that are in the thick of things simply due to the competition being so healthy at their skill position. This is truly what preseason football is all about: one last fighting tryout to be considered NFL active on game day.
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