The Tampa Bay Buccaneers weeklong shuffling of roster spots in the aftermath of a sudden rash of injuries has extended into the weekend and led to a season-high four elevations from the practice squad. On Saturday, the Buccaneers flexed running back Kenjon Barner, wide receiver Cyril Grayson, punter Sterling Hofrichter and defensive lineman Benning Potoa'e to the active roster, making them eligible to play against the Carolina Panthers in Week 16.
Teams are generally allowed up to two practice squad elevations per game, and any specific player can only be elevated twice during the season. However, an unlimited number of additional players can be elevated to replace teammates on the reserve/COVID-19 list and those do not count against a player's two-elevation limit. The Buccaneers placed wide receiver Jaelon Darden and defensive lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches on the COVID list on Thursday, where they joined WR Breshad Perriman, who has been on the list since last Saturday. In this case, Potoa'e was a standard elevation and the other three were COVID-19 replacements.
The elevation of Grayson gives the Buccaneers five healthy receivers for Sunday after Justin Watson was activated from the PUP list on Friday. They join Antonio Brown, Tyler Johnson and Scotty Miller, with Mike Evans due to be inactive after being ruled out on Friday's injury report. Chris Godwin was placed on season-ending injured reserve earlier in the week.
Barner could help the Buccaneers in two ways. He provides depth at running back with Leonard Fournette and Giovani Bernard on injured reserve, and he could factor into the return game. Darden was handling both punt and kickoff returns for the team before landing on the COVID list. Barner filled those roles for a portion of last season for the Buccaneers, averaging 5.8 yards on 13 punt returns and 23.9 yards on seven kickoff returns.
The elevation of Potoa'e helps the Bucs' interior defensive line, which lost Patrick O'Connor to injured reserve earlier in the week and saw Nunez-Roches hit the COVID list. Potoa'e, a 2020 undrafted free agent, has spent the entirety of the past two seasons on Tampa Bay's practice squad and saw action in two games last season – one each in the regular season and postseason – after game day elevations.
Hofrichter's elevation is related to the right hip injury that punter Bradley Pinion has been dealing with in recent weeks. Pinion was able to practice this week but Head Coach Bruce Arians said the Bucs will "wait and see" whether their best punting option on Sunday was Pinion or Hofrichter, who was the Atlanta Falcons' punter in 2020.
The practice squad elevation option was first introduced in 2020 as part of the new collective bargaining agreement. It came prior to a number of other rule changes that the NFL and NFLPA agreed upon in the summer of 2020 to provide teams with more roster flexibility during the pandemic. 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.