The talk about the recovery of both Tyrann Mathieu and Alameda Ta'amu has been all over the place, especially with Mathieu. First there was no timetable. Then general manager Steve Keim says that he could suit up and play in Week 1. More recently, head coach Bruce Arians said that the two might be missing for the first week of training camp, and then said he wasn't expecting them to play until October 1.
The team will have interesting choices to make when it comes to the roster, especially if they are healthy enough to be practicing, at least on a limited basis, in training camp, but not healthy enough to play games.
It would make sense that, if they aren't able to practice at the start of training camp, that they would be placed on the offseason PUP (physically unable to perform) list. They can be placed there anytime before training camp. Doing so frees up their spots on the roster. They are not permitted to practice, though.
They can stay there until needed, but once they are removed, they can't go back on it.
If they have been on the PUP list throughout the preseason, once the regular season rolls around, they can be placed on the regular season PUP list, which means that the player cannot come off until at least Week 7. The team would have until Week 9 to place him on injured reserve or get him on the roster and on the field.
If they were not on PUP in the preseason, or they were removed from it, the team could place them on injured reserve, which would end their season or, for one, allow him to return as early as Week 9.
Why is this important?
If both Mathieu and Ta'amu will "only miss the first week of camp," then they will, if placed there initially, come off the PUP list. That means they could only be placed on injured reserve or stay on the 53-man roster.
If they start on the PUP list and remain there all of the preseason, then they could be placed on the regular season PUP list, but that would mean missing at least six weeks. That would mean that an October 1 return would be impossible.
Essentially, assuming that neither will be healthy enough to play in Week 1, then the team will have to carry a pair of injured players on their 53-man roster who cannot contribute for a number of weeks. This will impact guys at the back of the roster. It means that an extra defensive lineman and an extra defensive back will likely make the final 53, while perhaps another player that the coaches would like to keep around at another position (like a running back, offensive lineman, receiver or linebacker) will be caught up in the numbers game and end up off the team.
The other option then pushes back the players' return to much later in the season, but only if they are held out of practice for all of training camp. Considering what both Mathieu and Ta'amu meant to last year's squad, that would be a big blow.
So the Cardinals will have to tread lightly when it comes to the decision to get these players on the practice field in training camp. Once they take the field, then it will force them to carry them on the roster until they are ready. That means the 53-man roster is really a 51-man roster and that will do as much to shape what the final roster coming out of the preseason looks as will the play of the bubble players in practice and in games.
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