The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have submitted their list to the NFL of the four practice squad players they will protect in Week One: safety Andrew Adams, wide receiver Jaydon Mickens, tackle Brandon Walton and tight end Deon Yelder.
The option to protect players from being signed away by other teams was one of a number of new rules adopted regarding the practice squad in 2020 to give teams more roster flexibility during the pandemic. The NFL elected to keep those rules in place for 2021.
Each week, a team can submit a list of up to four players on its practice squad that other teams are prohibited from signing to their active rosters. In a normal week with a Sunday game, that protection starts at 4:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday and extends through game day. No players are protected on Monday or on Tuesday before the deadline, so every practice squad player will still have opportunities to sign elsewhere, even with the protected spots.
The practice squads were expanded to 16 players last year and became even more important due to another new rule that was part of the new collective bargaining agreement ratified in 2020. Teams are now allowed to elevate two players from their practice squad and increase their game day rosters to 55 spots, with a maximum of 48 active. Additional players can also be activated as late as game day in order to replace players who were placed on the reserve/COVID list. That makes every practice squad player a potential contributor on game day, and teams can make sure that at least four of them are still on that unit at the end of the week.
Last year, the Buccaneers used all four of their protection options in a majority of their game weeks and elevated players from the practice squad in all but three weeks. All 16 practice squad players are eligible for the aforementioned elevation on game day, including the four on the protected list.
The Buccaneers may have included Adams on their Week One protection list because they are expected to be without starting safety Jordan Whitehead on Thursday due to a hamstring injury. Adams played for Tampa Bay the last three seasons but signed with Philadelphia as an unrestricted free agent this spring. The veteran safety returned to Tampa on the practice squad after he was released by the Eagles in the roster cutdown to 53 players for the regular season.