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What Does DNP Mean in American Football?

While DNP can stand for, “did not play,” in other sports, it most often stands for, “did not practice/participate” in the team’s weekly practice. This provides more information for opposing teams and fans when they’re trying to determine if a player will be available for the upcoming game. It’s common for older players to be listed as DNP early in the week even if they’re not injured to give them more time to recover between games.

My football career didn’t progress past high school, but I could still feel the wear and tear of a season that only lasted twelve games at the most. I could have benefitted from a few DNPs in my time, and am always amazed at how quickly professional athletes can recover between games. 

Why did the NFL change its injury report designations? And why were Bills fans so mad at the Patriots for their manipulation of the injury report? We’ll examine how teams handle their DNP and Limited players during practice and help you discern whether they’ll be healthy enough to plan on Sunday or not.

Key Takeaways

  • DNP is most often seen on NFL injury reports throughout the week and stands for, “Did not practice/participate
  • This can provide more context for opposing teams and fantasy football players when trying to determine if an injured player will be active for the upcoming game
  • Coaches can still manipulate the injury report to make it difficult to diagnose who will or won’t play

DNP on Injury Reports

In most cases, DNP is used as shorthand on NFL injury reports for, “Did Not Practice/Participate.” DNP became a distinction along with “limited” and “full participant” on injury reports to provide more context and information along with the previous injury listings of, “probable,” “questionable,” and “probable.” [1]

The change came in response to many NFL teams spamming their injury reports with players listed as questionable to disguise the true health status of their team. Teams didn’t need to disclose whether a player was practicing throughout the week, and the additional context would in theory make it easier for opposing teams to prepare.

But even with the new designations, coaches like Bill Belichick continue to manipulate their injury reports in an attempt to gain an edge. Belichick drew the ire of Bills fans before their 2022 playoff game when he submitted a final injury report that looked like this.

Even players that didn’t participate in practice were given questionable designations, making it hard for the Bills to plan for who would or wouldn’t be available. [2]

All the deception didn’t help much in the end as the Bills routed the Patriots 47-17. [3]

Understanding What DNP Can Mean During the Week

While teams can still be dishonest with a player’s final injury designation, we can discern some information from the daily practice reports during the regular season. In most cases, teams will practice three or four times a week and must submit how much players did or didn’t participate. [4]

Players that sit out early in the week may not have a serious injury. Sitting out a Tuesday practice may be for “maintenance” instead. This is especially common among older players that tend to have more nagging injuries or will require an extra day to recover from a physically demanding sport like football. If a younger player receives a DNP on Tuesday, that can be more cause for concern. [5]

As the week progresses, players that will be physically able to play in the upcoming game will usually get in at least a “limited” practice or two. If a player goes through Thursday without being able to play in practice at all, that’s a sign that even if they are active on Sunday, their performance will probably be hindered.

This is especially important for fantasy football players that are trying to decide who to start or sit. If a player is listed as active on Sunday but didn’t practice all week, you’ll be taking a pretty big risk starting them in your fantasy lineup. They may see limited usage or may not even see the field as the team lists them active as a ploy much like Belichick listing 13 players as questionable.

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Compared to the old injury report status, I like having more detailed information on the status of players throughout the week. It adds more context and makes it easier to decide who to play in both daily fantasy and season-long fantasy football. How much do you look at practice reports? Does it go into your selection process at all for fantasy? Let us know in the comments below.


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