The NFL increased the number of veteran players eligible for the practice squad each week of the season, which could be helpful to a veteran team with a deep roster like the Buffalo Bills.
The maximum number of players on the practice squad will remain at 16, but teams now can keep up to six veterans with unlimited experience (more than two years) on the practice squad. That’s up from two last year. The tweak in rules was agreed to by the NFL and the NFL Players Association. The agreement was released by the NFL Network.
Last year, the Bills kept two veteran offensive linemen – Jamil Douglas and Bobby Hart – on the practice squad for parts of the season. Extra veteran depth on the offensive line never is a bad idea.
The Bills also only kept two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster for all but two weeks of the season. This year Matt Barkley, a six-year NFL veteran, is 3 on the Bills’ QB depth chart. The rule change could make it easier for the Bills to keep just two QBs on the roster.
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In another tweak, a player could only be elevated to the roster for game day and then put back on the practice squad for two games last year. If a team wanted to elevate him for a third game, that player had to be activated onto the 53-man roster. For this year, that limit has been increased to three games.
Other rules that have been tweaked: Players placed on injured reserve now must miss a minimum of four games (not three). Up to eight players can be designated to return from injured reserve. Players can come back from injured reserve twice in one year.
Before Covid hit, teams could return only two players from injured reserve, and they were forced to wait eight weeks to return.
The rule on the 16-man limit is broken into two categories. There can be a maximum of 10 players on the practice squad who have one or two accrued seasons (which are used to judge a player’s free-agency status). A player earns an accrued season if he’s been on full-pay status on the roster for at least six games in a given season (this includes being inactive or on injured reserve).
Cornerback Cam Lewis is an example of a Bills player with two accrued seasons.
There can be a maximum of six with more than two accrued seasons. The number of players in both of these categories on the practice squad can’t exceed 10 (the other members of the practice squad would have to be guys with no accrued seasons).