Expanding On Practice Squad Procedures

Posted by Mike Wobschall on September 3, 2012 – 6:16 am

There’s been a lot of talk about NFL Practice Squads over the last several days. The Practice Squad is a part of the team that’s easy to take for granted, but there is a detailed subset of rules that govern the Practice Squad and how NFL teams use their Practice Squads to supplement their roster.

There was a Practice Squad-related question in this week’s Monday Morning Mailbag, so in case you missed it we’ll use much of that information in this blog entry along with several other details (as provided by the Collective Bargaining Agreement) that didn’t make it into the Mailbag.

– Clubs were permitted to establish a Practice Squad of no more than eight players (can be fewer than eight) beginning after 12:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, September 1. The Practice Player Contracts agreed to by the club and the player are set to expire seven days after the club’s final regular season or postseason game, unless the contract was terminated by the club or player prior to that time.

– Not just any player can be placed on a team’s Practice Squad; only players who do not have an accrued season of free agent credit or players who have a season of accrued free agent credit but were on the team’s Active List for fewer than nine regular season games during each accrued season(s).

– Players on the Active/Inactive List may not be signed directly to a Practice Player Contract, but first must be terminated via waivers.

– A player may serve on the Practice Squad a maximum of three seasons. Also, an unusual provision exists that says a player who has served two seasons on a Practice Squad is permitted to serve on a Practice Squad in a third season only if his team has 53 players on its Active/Inactive List.

– A player is deemed to have served on a Practice Squad in a season if he has passed the team’s physical exam and has been a member of a team’s Practice Squad for at least three regular season or postseason games (a bye week counts as a game as long as the player is not released until after the regular season or postseason weekend in question). Where that rule changes is on the third year of Practice Squad eligibility. If a player has served two Practice Squad seasons, he earns a third season if he has passed the club’s physical exam and has been a member of a club’s Practice Squad for at least one regular season or postseason game (including a bye week). Also, a player who is eligible to be signed to the Practice Squad at the beginning of a season remains eligible for the Practice Squad for the remainder of the regular season and postseason, regardless of the number of games that he is a member of the Active/Inactive List during that season.

– If a player has served two seasons on a Practice Squad, he is deemed to have served a third season if he has passed the club’s physical exam and has been a member of a club’s Practice Squad for at least one regular season or postseason game (including a bye week).

– Practice Squad eligibility stays with a player for his career, meaning that one season’s worth of credit on the Practice Squad with the Vikings goes with a player if that player is signed to another team’s Practice Squad.

– A Practice Squad player’s contract may be terminated by the club on the same grounds as any other player contract. A Practice Squad player may also terminate his own contract with the club to pursue a tryout or contract with another club. If another club signs a Practice Squad player away from another team, the new club must count that player on its 53-man roster for three weeks. If a Practice Squad player wants to sign a Practice Squad contract with a new club, his original club must first terminate the Practice Squad player contract.

There are several more rules and provisions related to Practice Squad players and their relationships with their club and other clubs in the League, as well as ineligible and injured players, but we’ll save those details for another day. Those are the basic rules of the Practice Squad. They may not seem basic after reading them, but it just goes to show how complex the process of building an NFL roster can be and about how intentional the NFL and the NFL Players Association is about providing an equal playing field for teams and players.

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