Hardly a year goes by without the NFL changing the rules governing the practice squads of its 32 teams, and with the pandemic adding an extra degree of complexity, here’s a look at the key things you need to know about the training team in 2021.

16 player training teams

The NFL is retaining the 16-player training squad from last year to allow teams more flexibility as they continue to deal with the pandemic. A 16-man squad allows teams to maintain more depth, but it will also impact roster strategies in the league.

Up to six “veterans” per training team

The league now allows six players per practice squad with an unlimited number of accumulated seasons, making it easier for teams to have experienced players on their practice squad.

In addition, the league allows up to four players per team who have not won more than two accumulated seasons. An accumulated season means that a player was in full status on the active / inactive, reserved / injured or reserve / physically unable to run lists for a club. This basically covers all of the 2019 and 2020 rookie classes, both draft and undrafted players, regardless of how many NFL games they’ve played. The Cowboys won’t try to pass their best draft picks to the practice squad, but it could be an opportunity for fringe players with one or two seasons accumulated like QB Ben DiNucci, LB Azur Kamara or DE. Ron’Dell Carter.

Finally, all rookies are eligible for the practice squad, as well as all players who were on the active roster for less than nine regular season games in their single accumulated season.

Up to two “promotional” players

The NFL allows teams to promote two players from the practice squad to the 53-player squad (effectively creating a 55-player squad), but those players return to the practice squad after the game.

A promotion related to COVID.

In addition to the two promoted players, teams can promote an additional player from the practice squad within 90 minutes before kick-off in the event of a late positive COVID-19 test result. Teams may think about keeping a QB on the PS specifically for the scenario where the entire regular QB room falls under COVID protocols, as happened last year with the Broncos, who suddenly found themselves without a QB on the day of the match.

Up to four “protected” players

In principle, the players of the training team can be added to the list of 53 players of another team at any time. However, each team is allowed to protect up to four players from their training team per week, which means they cannot be signed by another team.

The reason for all of these new rules and expanded rosters is the NFL’s refusal to postpone games when COVID-19 protocols put teams at a disadvantage; the expanded training team roster is designed to mitigate this.

Basics of the general training team

  • The players of the practice team train with the team. They don’t play in games unless they are promoted (see above)
  • Not all players are eligible to be signed to NFL practice teams (see eligibility rules above).
  • Players on the practice squad are paid weekly and can be released at any time during the season.
  • Practice team players are free to sign with other NFL teams (with the exception of the four protected players described above), but they must be signed into the active roster of 53 players. acquiring team. A player from the training team cannot be signed up to another training team unless he is released first.
  • A player from the practice team cannot sign with the next opponent on his team, unless he does so six days before the upcoming match or 10 days if his team is currently on a week off.
  • If a player on the practice squad is on the active roster, they will receive at least three weekly paychecks, even if released before spending three weeks with the new squad.
  • In order to be signed to a practice squad after being released, a player must first clear waivers and is subject to waiver requests by other teams.


Practice squad players earn a lot less than active roster players, but they still earn a solid weekly paycheck. In 2021, all players with two or less cumulative seasons earn a minimum of $ 9,200 per week while on the practice squad. Veterans with more than two seasons accumulated receive a minimum of $ 14,000 per week.

To protect their players from other teams, or because they really like the potential of a given player, some teams pay the players on their team a lot more. There is no limit to the amount a team can pay a player on the training team, although training team contracts count towards the salary cap.

The advantage of being part of the training team is that if a player is called up to the regular 53-player roster, either by his own team or by another team, he automatically signs a contract with the minimum wage. of the NFL of $ 660,000. And because three weeks of this contract are guaranteed, even if that player is released, relinquished or traded before the end of the three weeks, being called back comes with a guarantee of $ 101,000 (3 / 18th of $ 660,000) .

Ultimately, every Cowboys player has to go through waivers before the Cowboys can re-enroll him in their practice squad, which always carries the risk of that player being picked up by another squad.

The teams reduced their roster to 80 players today, and the final roster cuts to 53 players are due to be completed by Tuesday, August 31, 4 p.m. ET.

The claims period for players placed on waivers in the final cup of the league’s 53-player rosters expires at 4:00 p.m. ET on September 1.

Starting at 4 p.m. ET on September 1, teams can begin recruiting players to their practice squads.