How does the Green Bay Packers practice squad work and what are rules around 'elevating' players to the roster?
Rules governing the practice squad have shifted in recent years, including a dramatic expansion in the number of players added to it and the opportunity to use those players on game day even without putting them on the active 53-man roster. So how does all that work, exactly?
What is the practice squad, anyway?
NFL teams can keep 16 players on their practice squad, meaning ... it's in the name, that they can practice with the Packers. They're just not eligible to play in games unless they get added to the 53-man or elevated for a given week (we'll get to the particulars on that front). Most of the players the Packers kept were in training camp but were among the final cuts.
Who's on the practice squad for the Packers?
There's some nuance here, but in simplest terms: The players on the practice squad are largely rookie or second-year players, but veterans are eligible, too. Yes, even if they have 15 years NFL experience.
However, only six of the 16 can be "veterans" with two-plus years of experience. The Packers don't have any players who'd be qualified as veterans at the moment — some players (like Travis Fulgham and Juwann Winfree) have played multiple NFL seasons but not in enough games to have "accrued" two seasons (six games in a given season on the active roster gets you an accrued year).
The players on the Packers list are: Winfree (WR), Fulgham (WR), Micah Abernathy (S), Ray Wilborn (ILB), Kobe Jones (OLB), Caleb Jones (OT), Tyler Goodson (RB), Patrick Taylor (RB), Kiondre Thomas (CB), Benjie Franklin (DB), La'Darius Hamilton (OLB), Chris Slayton (DL), Jack Heflin (DL), Danny Etling (QB), Shaun Beyer (TE) and Ramiz Ahmed (K).
All of the practice squad players were in camp with the Packers this year except Franklin, who also comes from Jacksonville, and Beyer, from Minnesota.
Practice squad players can get plucked away by other teams at any time, right?
Yes, any team can sign another team's practice-squad player to its 53-man roster. You'll recall that working out for the Packers last October when they picked up a cornerback from the Arizona Cardinals by the name of Rasul Douglas.
But there are some caveats.
For one thing, the departing player must be signing on another team's 53-man roster; if you want to sign another team's practice squad to your practice squad, he has to be released or clear waivers first.
Furthermore, a team cannot claim any players from its upcoming opponent within six days of a game (or 10 days if a team is on bye). And, a team is obligated to pay its new claims for at least three weeks. Thus, don't expect players to just get picked up for their playbook knowledge and then dumped to the curb. You'll recall Douglas made a big play against his former team last year, but the Packers signed him a couple weeks before playing Arizona.
In some cases, practice squad players can play in games while not being on the 53-man roster
A practice squad player can get elevated to the active roster for a maximum of three regular-season games in 2022 (and any number of postseason games) without counting against the 53-man roster. They return to the practice squad once the game is over.
Last year, it was just two games, and players such as Benkert or Innis Gaines saw action without officially getting added to the active roster. Winfree and Hamilton appeared as elevated players, then were signed to the active roster — a team would need to make that move if they want a practice-squad player to appear in a fourth game.
When during the week do the players have to be 'elevated?'
Practice squad players can be elevated any time before the team announces its inactives 90 minutes before kickoff, and the team has the option of elevating as many as two players for a given week.
What kind of money do practice squad players make?
Practice squad players are paid weekly and can be released any time, but it figures out to a little over $200,000 for the full 18 weeks, though players with experience can make more and negotiate week-to-week.