The Non-Football Injury (NFI) list is made up of players who were injured or fell ill away from the team facility. Players on the NFI do not count toward a team’s active roster and are not entitled to compensation (but some teams choose to pay the player anyway while on the list). Additionally, because they are unpaid, games on the NFI list do not count toward games under full pay status in calculation of a player’s accrued and credited seasons.
Qualifying for the NFI list
A player can be placed on the NFI list for any injury that occurred away from the team facility before the season begins. This includes football and non-football activities. For example, if a player gets injured from working out / conditioning at home or at a gym outside of the team’s facilities, they can be placed on the NFI list to begin the season. If a player enters the NFL as a rookie with an injury from college, they can also be placed on the NFI list if they have not healed in time. A recent example is former San Francisco 49ers running back Marcus Lattimore, who suffered a major knee injury at South Carolina and was on the NFI list his entire rookie season in 2014.
Pay / Return
Players on the NFI list are unpaid until they are activated to the active roster or placed on Injured Reserve (IR). The process of being on the NFI list is same as the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list: Once a player is placed on the NFI list to start a season they will remain on the list through Week 6, at which point the player can begin practicing with the team. The team has from Week 6 to Week 9 to activate the player to the active roster, otherwise they will remain on the NFI list through the end of the season. If the player is not activated by Week 9 the team has the option to place the player on IR, which still keeps them off the active roster but allows them to be paid for the rest of the season, which some teams will do as a service to the player. A recent example is Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith, who was placed on the NFI list to start the season and will not be eligible to return to the active roster until Week 6 following a catastrophic knee injury suffered while at Notre Dame. If Smith’s knee is not fully healed and ready to go by Week 9, the Cowboys can either leave him unpaid on the NFI list or move him to IR.