Despite comments from Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano that no roster move has been made regarding injured defensive end Phillip Merling, the official NFL transactions wire indicates that Merling has indeed been placed on the Active/Non-Football Injury list to begin training camp.
Merling's torn Achilles' tendon in July capped off a rocky offseason for the third-year defensive end. Reports of the team's displeasure with his progression have persisted, and he was arrested in late May on aggravated battery charges against his pregnant girlfriend.
The Dolphins' second-round pick in 2010, Merling has started four of 32 games in two seasons and recorded 59 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and one interception as a rotational defensive lineman.
With Randy Starks moving from defensive end to nose tackle in 2010, Merling was expected to compete with rookie first-round pick Jared Odrick for the starting right end job.
Merling's injury likely prompted, at least in part, the signings of veteran defensive ends Marques Douglas and Charles Grant last week.
What does this designation mean?
This is an extremely important designation for the Dolphins and for Merling, as being on the non-football injury list means the team does not have to pay the player's salary for that season due to him being injured outside of team activities.
Being placed on the Active version of this list is a necessary precursor to going on the Reserve version of this list once the regular season begins. Players must be placed on the Active versions of things like NFI and PUP at the beginning of training camp, or not at all.
(For example, because Chad Pennington was never placed on the Active/PUP list to begin camp, he cannot be placed on the PUP list at all this season.)
Despite being moved to the Active/Non-Football Injury list, Merling is currently still counting toward the Dolphins' 80-man roster limit. To move him off the 80-man roster and to Reserve/NFI now, the team would have to expose him to waivers.
Although Merling is injured for the 2010 season, he is likely good enough that at least one team would claim him off waivers and keep him on their active roster until the regular season before moving him to a reserve list.
In more little-known news, quarterback Pat White was actually placed on the Active/Non-Football Illness list during his suspicious absence on the first day of camp. However, he was activated when he resumed practice yesterday.
Cornerback Evan Oglesby remains on the Active/Non-Football Illness list, although he is expected to be activated in the coming days.
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