During the 2013 offseason new coach Bruce Arians and new general manager Steve Keim didn't like the reliable, comfortable receivers they had opposite Larry Fitzgerald, when giving new quarterback, Carson Palmer, the keys to the car.
So the Arizona Cardinals spent $2.27 million on a Ryan Swope speedster model that remains their property but can't kick the tires or drive around the block because of a cracked head.
So now what?
They could claim the Arizona "Lemon Law," otherwise known as a non-guaranteed NFL contract, and release the player immediately or they could wait for returned health with at least 3 different injury options:
Physically Unable to Perform list
This would seem the most prudent choice of the three with Swope, if not medically cleared before training camp, going onto the active PUP (or preseason) list.
It simply states that if a player is unable to start training camp will sit out until receiving doctor's okay to practice. Once, the player is cleared however, and spends at least one snap or minute on a practice, he is no longer eligible for placement on the list and if still hurt, must count against the 53 man roster or be waived/traded. Last season Beanie Wells and Jeff King started training camp on the preseason PUP list.
If after the preseason, the injured player is still not cleared - they are a candidate for the reserve PUP (or regular season) listing. This entails that the player misses the first six weeks of the regular season, including practices. After the six weeks the team has a three week window in which they can a.) have the player practice with the team, b.) release the player, or c.) place the player on the injured reserve list, effectively ending their season. If the player is cleared to practice the club has another three weeks to decide to what to with such player. 2012 saw Wells activated for practice during preseason, taking him off the list, but then suffered a toe injury against Philadelphia, relegating to the next injury designation:
Injured Reserve list
In the past, being on this list was in essence, the kiss of death, for that season. If placed, you would automatically be excluded from practicing or playing with the team for the remainder of the year, including postseason. This was an auto shop full of cars last season of mechanical problems with Levi Brown. Lyle Sendlein, Rich Ohrnberger, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Williams and O'Brien Schofeld among others that were getting a look under their hoods. Even if deemed ready to go, they had to sit in the garage.
The last NFL/NFLPA collective bargaining agreement contained a new clause however, that one player per team can be "designated for return" if placed on injured reserve. That player can start practicing six weeks after placement, if healthy and be on the team's active roster eight weeks in. Wells was pegged in this slot and missed seven games, yet had a costly fumble in a game shortly thereafter -- partially related to his being released in March.
Non Football Injury list
This is the third option in handling an injured player and frankly, I found differentiating reports on how this works.
Presumably, this is basically the same as PUP, yet the player falls under this category because of either a.) the injury/ impairment came away from football, i.e. the Patriots' Marcus Cotton undergoing chemotherapy for cancer (or maybe even Aaron Hernandez if not fully charged/convicted in murder case) or Cowboy's Josh Brent for drug and alcohol counseling following the death of a teammate he caused, or b.) because of an injury that predated a team's drafting that player. O'Brien Schofield held this placement in 2010 after tearing up his knees in the Senior Bowl and San Francisco 49ers draft pick Marcus Lattimore is expected the same after his gruesome college leg injury.
While being on the PUP and IR do not count against the 53 man roster (PUP does count versus the 90 man pre-camp limit, though), the salaries do against the cap and this is where I found conflicting stories. Supposedly, if placed on NFI - the team has the option of not paying the player. This was a possible case last season with the Baltimore Ravens after finding out Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles playing pickup basketball. I find it hard to believe though, that Schofeld wasn't and Lattimore won't.
Either way, the NFL provides a trio of time-spending alternatives (at least 5-6 months from now) if you wish to work on the weekends trying to tinker with the red Corvette in order to get it humming down the road.
It's probably better than just dumping it at the nearest junkyard.