As usual there is a bit of overreaction today in regards to the comments that Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert made about running back Rashard Mendenhall. Mendenhall of course tore his right ACL in the season finale against the Cleveland Browns and had surgery to repair it in early January. The rehabilitation of such injury a could take anywhere from 6-9 months, or even longer depending on the individual and the position he plays.
Colbert hinted that the PUP (physically unable to perform) list is a possibility for Mendenhall, and that should come as no surprise being as the injury happened at the end of the season. I wanted to clarify to everyone how exactly that process works, as I think a few are under the impression that Mendenhall will certainly not play at all in 2012 based on the comments made by Colbert on Monday.
When Mendenhall reports to training camp, I fully expect he will be place on the ACTIVE PUP list. Players must be placed on ACTIVE PUP at the start of training camp if they are to be eligible for the RESERVE PUP list once the regular season starts. The ACTIVE PUP list means that player can\’t practice with the team until he is removed from that list. If that player is removed from the ACTIVE PUP list, he no longer is eligible for the RESERVE PUP list once the season starts.
Assuming that Mendenhall will be brought along slowly, I do not expect him to practice or play at all during the Steelers training camp or preseason and thus will remain on the ACTIVE PUP list the entire time. That is unless he is 100% recovered, which I highly doubt he will be. Before the season starts, the Steelers must decide whether or not they will place Mendenhall on RESERVE PUP or leave him on the 53 man roster. If he is placed on the RESERVE PUP list, he will not count against the Steelers 53 man roster, but he also will not be eligible to play for the first 6 weeks of the 2012 regular season.
After week 6 the Steelers will have a three-week window open to them during which Mendenhall can return to practice without counting against the 53-man roster. Once Mendenhall starts practicing with the team, another three-week opens to the Steelers in which they must decide to place Mendenhall back on the 53 man roster or place him on the season ending injured reserve. So basically if Mendenhall is placed on RESERVE PUP to start the regular season, the earliest he could be eligible to play is Week 7 and the latest he could return is by Week 13.
Mendenhall will count against the salary cap the entire time, even if he is placed on injured reserve, but at least the Steelers will have leeway with 53 man roster. I hope that clarifies the situation with Mendenhall in regards to the comments Colbert made today. There certainly is a remote chance that Mendenhall will not play at all in 2012, but they will have quite a bit of time to make the ultimate decision with him if they follow the PUP rules correctly.