NFL, NFLPA Agree To More Inclusive Practice Squad Tweaks

While I have yet to note this elsewhere, a bit of interesting news—to me anyway—came out yesterday courtesy of former Buccaneers general manager and current ESPN analyst Mark Dominik regarding the practice squad.

Dominik Tweeted out yesterday a message of congratulations to the NFL as well as the NFLPA for working out an arrangement that, in part, expanded the 10-man practice squads for at least the 2016 and 2017 seasons. The 10-man practice squad was given a one-year trial run beginning last season.

Also adopted last year was the eligibility of all NFL players who had no more than two years of accrued NFL experience, with the caveat that each team could only have up to two such players of that level of experience.

In Dominik’s Tweet, he mentions that teams are now allowed to have up to four players on their 10-man practice squad who have two years of experience accrued and no more. This rule tweak figures to be highly beneficial for a number of more veteran players who would be at risk of completely falling out of the league if they were unable to make a 53-man roster.

I would like to point out that this is a pretty big deal, and is actually a far cry from where the rule used to be. Previously, if a player had dressed for six or more games during his rookie season, he would entirely lose his practice squad eligibility. That is why Joe Burnett never stuck around after he failed to make the 53-man roster in his second training camp in 2010.

To illustrate the importance of that change, I want to point out the fact that players such as Anthony Chickillo and Jesse James would have vacated their practice squad eligibility. L.T. Walton, active for six games, would have no hope for the practice squad either. Roosevelt Nix? Say goodbye.

Under the new practice squad rules, here is a brief list of names of players who are still eligible for the practice squad, some of whom you might not expect: Ross Cockrell; Daniel McCullers; Fitzgerald Toussaint; Ryan Shazier; Stephon Tuitt.

Of course, it goes without saying that most, if not all of those players would be claimed off waivers before they ever made it to the practice squad, but the point remains that the new rules have vastly expanded the pool of players that are eligible to be retained to help further their careers.

A player who might especially benefit is third-year lineman Chris Hubbard, who already spent one year on the practice squad. He has been on the 53-man roster the past two seasons, however, and is a third-year player, active for seven games last year. If he fails to make the roster, he can still make the practice squad.

Of course, the games active stipulation is still in place. You can technically be in your 11th season and still retain practice squad eligibility if you dress for five games a year. But I believe too many young players with potential slipped through the cracks because of the old rule, and I’m glad to see the new rules opening things up even further.

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