An explanation of the NFL's reserve/military list

New England's Bill Belichick has used the reserve military list to sign a number of Naval Academy graduates. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

New England's Bill Belichick has used the military/ reserve list to sign a few former Naval Academy football players. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Anyone who follows Navy football knows that New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick loves to give talented Midshipmen a shot at the NFL. Belichick’s father coached and worked as a scout at Navy for many years, and the younger Belichick has signed a handful of Navy grads and kept them on the team using the NFL’s reserve/military.

As far as I can see, the rules for list aren’t spelled out anywhere online, so it never fails to confuse folks. So here’s a very basic description of how it works from by Patriots Football Weekly writer Andy Hart:

Can U explain the Military Reserve and how and when it’s used?
Robert Bumgardner

The list is used for any player who is actively involved with the Armed Forces, and therefore cannot play out his NFL contract. The contract is essentially tolled, as the player is not paid and does not count against a team’s roster limit. The team can then activate the player and, if it chooses, expect him to play out the terms of the contract at whatever time he completes his military commitments. The Patriots currently have three players from the Navy on their Reserve/Military list: WR Tyree Barnes, WR Shun White and RB Eric Kettani.

At first glance, the reserve/military list sees like a great way for former football players to workout with an NFL team whenever they might have a chance. However Shun White’s association with the Patriots generated a lot of attention recently, with some questioning whether it was appropriate for a midshipman to enter active duty while under contract with a pro team.
Fair or unfair, there’s also the shadow of 2005 USNA grad Kyle Eckel — famous for winning a Super Bowl with the Saints in Febrary and getting kicked out of the Navy in 2006 — who also was on the Patriots reserve/military list while he was still on active duty.
Aside from the Navy grads, it’s possible that 2010 Air Force Academy graduate Ben Garland will end up on the Denver Broncos’ military/reserve list after signing with them earlier this offseason.

For another explanation of the military/reserve list, check out this 2009 story on


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