Understanding The Practice Squad

At this time of year there are always plenty of questions about how the practice squad works. Here’s as best as it can be explained based on the new labor agreement between the league and its players.

Let’s start with who can be on the practice squad. Eligibility comes down to whether or not a player has been on a team’s roster and how many games he might have been on the active game-day roster. Essentially, any rookie or first-year player is eligible for the practice squad. Players with two years in the league or longer can be on the practice squad if they were on the game-day active list for fewer than nine regular season game over their careers.

A player can spend two seasons on the practice squad. He can gain a third season only if his team had at last 53 players on its roster during the time he was on the team.

OK, so looking at the Chiefs roster going into cutdown day, there are:

– 28 rookies and first year players that could end up on the practice squad; all are eligible.

– There are 14 second-year players, but five, possibly six are eligible – NT Anthony Toribio, LB Justin Cole, LB Cameron Sheffield, CB Quinten Lawrence and LB Pierre Walters. None of those players has already spent two seasons on the practice squad or been on the game-day active list for nine games or more. We aren’t sure about S Ricky Price. The new collective bargaining agreement reads: “… players who were on the Active List for fewer than nine regular season games during their only Accrued Season(s).” Price has been on the active list nine times, so is nine the threshold or is eight the most games a player can be on the active list and still have a shot at the practice squad.

Here are a few other items about the practice squad:

– A player does not have to sign with the practice squad of the team that released him. Once he’s placed on the waiver wire and goes through unclaimed he’s the equivalent of an unrestricted free agent, able to sign with any team.

– At any point in the season, a practice squad player can sign to be on the active roster of another team. If that move happens, the player has to be on the team’s 53-man roster for the next three games. A player cannot leave one team’s practice squad to sign with another.

– Teams can add or delete players from the practice squad at any time during the regular and post-season.

– The practice squad is not guaranteed every season; the league must elect each year to have the 8-man per player designation. The League can also allow clubs to add to the practice squad a ninth player, with an international background.

– Practice squad players receive $5,700 per week through the regular and post-season. That means a player who spends an entire season on the practice squad would receive $96,900 with the bye week included.

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