Three NFC North teams placed a total of five players on the reserve/physically unable to perform list this week. I've shared and/or contributed to some of the confusion that might surround their immediate future, so let's clarify how the next few months will play out for Detroit Lions cornerback Jack Williams; Green Bay Packers cornerback Al Harris, safety Atari Bigby and running back James Starks; and Minnesota Vikings receiver Sidney Rice.
All PUP players are ineligible to play or practice for the first six weeks (not games) of the season.
After Week 6, a three-week window opens during which the players can return to practice (while not counting against the 53-man roster). In order to play this season, a PUP player must start practicing during that window. So the earliest a player could begin practicing is Oct. 18 and the latest is Nov. 1.
Once the player starts practicing, a second three-week window opens. At some point during that window, the player must be activated to the 53-man roster or be ineligible to play for the rest of the year. So the earliest a PUP player could be eligible to play is Week 7. The latest is Week 13.
Generally speaking, it's probably a safe bet to expect our PUP players to return on the earlier side of that timetable or not at all. It's not often that you see a player miss all of training camp, then almost two-thirds of the regular season, and then re-join a team for the stretch run. Football conditioning and team chemistry are two obstacles to such an unusual timetable.