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One Last Look At NFL Practice Squad Eligibility Rules

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Rodney Smith (83) was on the practice squad in 2013. Dominique Williams (43) could be on this year's. The other guy pictured? I think he's safe.
Rodney Smith (83) was on the practice squad in 2013. Dominique Williams (43) could be on this year's. The other guy pictured? I think he's safe.
Hannah Foslien

Beginning today at 11 AM Central time, once all of the waiver claims for players that were released over the past couple of days have been awarded, the 32 NFL teams can begin assembling their practice squads. So that we can alleviate any confusion as to how the Minnesota Vikings can assemble their practice squad, let's take a look at what the practice squad is all about.

Practice Squad Basics

  • Thanks to a new rule that was passed just a couple of weeks ago, practice squads are now comprised of ten players. The number used to be eight.
  • Practice squad players are just that. . .guys that practice with the team. They don't play in any games and don't count against the 53-man roster.
  • Players that are on the practice squad get paid weekly and can be dropped at any time during the season. The minimum salary for a practice squad player is $6,300/week, but teams can pay more (and usually will if they think that another team is considering poaching one of their players).
  • Practice squad players can be signed by any other team at any other time, provided that they're signed directly to a team's 53-man roster. A team can't sign a player from another team's practice squad simply to put them on their practice squad. If a player is released from a team's practice squad, he can then sign with another team's practice squad.
  • A practice squad player can not sign with a team's upcoming opponent after 3 PM Central time six days before the two teams play each other. (Ten days if their team is currently on a bye week.)
  • If a player is signed from a practice squad to an active roster, whether it's their current team or that of another team, they will receive at least three game checks, regardless of whether or not the team releases them before those three weeks are up.
  • In order to sign a player to the practice squad after they have been released, the player has to clear waivers.

Practice Squad Eligibility

In order to be eligible for the practice squad, a player must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Have no prior accrued seasons of NFL experience. An "accrued season" is one in which they spent six or more games on the active roster.
  • Have one prior accrued season of NFL experience in which the player was on the 45-man active roster (i.e. not inactive on game day) for no more than eight games.
  • Thanks to the new rules this year, a team may sign a maximum of two practice squad players who have earned no more than two accrued seasons of free agency credit.
  • If a player has served two seasons on the practice squad, they are eligible for a third season only if their team has 53 players on their active/inactive list for the duration of that player's employment.
  • A player has served one season on the practice squad if they are on the practice squad for at least six games (up from three the past few years).

So, that should be just about everything that folks need to understand the basics of the National Football League practice squad. In a little less than three hours, we'll know which ten players will comprise that group for the Minnesota Vikings.