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Bucs Activate Patrick O'Connor, J.J. Russell for Bears Game

The Buccaneers will have a 55-man roster on game day to face the Bears in Week Two after elevating DL Patrick O’Connor and LB J.J. Russell from the practice squad on Saturday

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers activated fifth-year defensive lineman Patrick O'Connor and second-year linebacker J.J. Russell from the practice squad on Saturday, making both players eligible to play in Sunday's home opener against the Chicago Bears.

The NFL introduced the practice squad elevation option in 2020, which allows teams to activate up to two practice squad players for each game. By utilizing both options in Week Two, the Buccaneers have increased their game day roster to 55 players for their Week Two matchup with the Saints. They will be able to keep 48 of those player active for the game, naming seven inactives prior to kickoff.

Each player on the practice squad can be elevated up to three times during the regular season and an unlimited amount of times in the postseason. After the game, elevated players automatically revert to the practice squad without having to pass through waivers.

Neither of the Bucs' two Week Two elevations comes a surprise, as both help bolster positions that were recently thinned by injuries. In the team's season opener in Minnesota, rookie defensive lineman Calijah Kancey aggravated the calf injury that caused him to miss the entire preseason and was unable to practice this week. Rookie linebacker SirVocea Dennis then sustained a hamstring injury in practice on Thursday and was sidelined during Friday's practice. Both have been ruled out for Sunday's game. O'Connor gives the Bucs a sixth option in the defensive line rotation and Russell will keep the off-ball linebacker position four deep. Cornerback Carlton Davis has also been ruled out of the Chicago game due to a toe injury, but the Bucs had a sixth corner, rookie Derrek Pitts, on the inactive list in Week One and can turn to him to fill the void.

If they are kept on the 48-man inactive list on Sunday, both O'Connor and Russell would likely be active on special teams, too. O'Connor, who first joined the team in 2017, was on the 53-man roster for the entirety of the past three seasons and logged nearly a thousand snaps on special teams in that span. Russell played in six games as an undrafted rookie for the Buccaneers last year and got on the field for 147 special teams plays in those outings.

O'Connor originally entered the league as a seventh-round draft pick of the Detroit Lions in 2017 out of Eastern Michigan. He was signed by the Bucs to their practice squad in October of that same season and was later promoted to the active roster, appearing in three games. Overall, O'Connor has seen action in 57 regular-season games, all with the Buccaneers and has recorded 20 tackles, three tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and five quarterback hits. Russell was signed by Tampa Bay as an undrafted rookie out of Memphis in May of 2022.

The practice squad elevation option was introduced as part of the new collective bargaining agreement in 2020. The new rule was something of a compromise, as it did not expand the active rosters beyond 53 players but did give teams a few more options on game days.

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