Ratliff, a four-time Pro Bowl player who was limited to six games last season by injuries, has not fully recovered from sports hernia surgery he underwent in December. He also strained his hamstring during the Cowboys' conditioning test at the beginning of training camp.
Ratliff can be activated on Oct. 14 at the earliest, but the Cowboys have a three-week window to evaluate him in practice before making a decision on his status. Ratliff can remain on the reserve/PUP list for up to 12 weeks. If he's not activated by that point, he's ineligible to play the remainder of the season.
The Cowboys had hoped that the shift to a 4-3 defense would rejuvenate the career of Ratliff, whose sack total has declined in five consecutive seasons, bottoming out at zero last year.
"I believe in Jay," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said earlier Tuesday, expressing confidence that Ratliff would contribute this season. "I think he's a competitor. I think, you know, there's some things that can be frustrating when you have injuries. … Those things happen. I'm convinced that we've got a program now -- he's had a few setbacks -- that hopefully will put him on the road where he can play for us at some point this season."
Ratliff did not rehab at the Cowboys' Valley Ranch facility this offseason. Jones was noncommittal about whether that might have been a factor in Ratliff's slow recovery.
Cowboys linebacker Alex Albright, who rehabbed at Valley Ranch, underwent an operation to repair a sports hernia and was cleared for training camp. Former Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman missed five games after he had surgery to repair a sports hernia in 2008.