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Explaining how the NFL works, Part 13: Non-football-injury list

Let’s examine the process of some of the inner workings in the NFL and how teams manage the situations.

Baltimore Ravens v Houston Texans Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Whether it’s when the NFL is in the full swing of its regular season or if it’s during the downtime of the early summer, there still is constant news and happenings with the league that has made itself relevant 365 days a year. When various things are discussed, sometimes there are terminologies and procedures where fans might have a general understanding of things. Even the most die-hard fans may have certain areas they don’t understand exactly what various things mean and wish to have a better understanding.

Over the next few weeks, I will take some time to do my best in thoroughly explaining some of the various inner workings of things in the NFL. These are not on-field items but more from an administrative standpoint. Whether it be understanding the waiver wire, the Reserve/Injured List, or the breakdown of the practice squad, we’ll take a look at some of the various terms that are thrown around and utilized in descriptions of things in the NFL but may not be fully understood.

Next up is looking at a very similar list to the topic yesterday which occurs when a player is injured or ill from a non-football related issue.

Non-football-injury list

I probably should have included this topic yesterday, but since I did not it will receive its own attention. When looking at players being on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, it is for a player who cannot perform their duties because it was a football-related injury. For injuries that are not football related, or should specifically say professional football-related, they fit into this category: the Non-football-injury (NFI) list.

When it comes to this list, it works just like the PUP list where there is an Active/NFI list for when a player is dealing with things in the preseason and Reserve/NFI list where it carries over into the regular season. Just like with PUP, a player must start the first practice on this list and once they participate in the practice they are removed from the list and cannot go back on in the same season. When a player is on the Active/NFI list during the preseason they still count towards the 90-man roster. If they moved to the Reserve/NFI list, they do not count against the 53-man roster but must miss at least the first four games of the season. If any more clarity is needed about the process, it is laid out clearly in yesterday's PUP article (Part 12, listed below).

One of the more recent instances of a player planning on the NFL list with the Steelers was the last season when Minkah Fitzpatrick landed on the NFI list due to a wrist injury from a bike accident. Fitzpatrick spent 10 days on the list before returning to practice.

As noted above, the better way to say a player lands on this list is not that it was a non-football injury, but instead it did not happen with professional football. Players who come out of college with severe injuries can be placed on this list. Some examples include Willis McGahee, Jameson Williams, and John Metchie.

Technically, the name of this list is the Non-football Injury or Illness list. Players who suffer from an illness can also land on this list.


The most significant difference between the PUP and NFI lists is the pay a player receives. On the NFL list, the player is not entitled to their salary, but a team can negotiate with the player to give a determined payment for games missed during the regular season while on the list.

When it comes to the tolling of a contract, the requirements are just like PUP where the player would have to miss the entire season and be the last year of their contract in order for it to toll.

In case you missed other parts of the series, they can be seen here: