On Saturday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers elevated running back Kenjon Barner and cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson from the practice squad, making them eligible to play in Sunday night's game against the New Orleans Saints. The team used a standard elevation on Barner but Wreh-Wilson was elevated as a COVID-19 replacement. That was unfortunately an option after the Buccaneers placed wide receiver Breshad Perriman on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Barner was just re-signed to Tampa Bay's practice squad on Wednesday after spending most of the 2020 season on that unit. He was elevated for game day on several occasions and then eventually promoted to the active roster in December before finishing the season on injured reserve. Barner played in a total of six games for the Buccaneers last year, primarily as a return man, running back 13 punts for 75 yards and seven kickoffs for 167 yards.
Originally a sixth-round pick by the Carolina Panters out of Oregon in 2013, Barner has played in 73 NFL games with one start, rushing 100 times for 416 yards and three touchdowns and catching 28 passes for another 152 yards. He has career return averages of 7.4 yards on punts and 23.5 yards on kickoff returns.
Wreh-Wilson was first signed to the Buccaneers' practice squad on October 18, and this is his first game day elevation. The Buccaneers are down at least one cornerback for the weekend, with Jamel Dean ruled out due to illness, and Richard Sherman is also considered doubtful for the game with an Achilles tendon injury.
Wreh-Wilson most recently went to training camp with the Las Vegas Raiders this summer before being released in the cut-down to 53-man rosters. He is familiar with the NFC South, having played the last five seasons for the Atlanta Falcons, with 41 appearances and three starts in that span. Last year, Wreh-Wilson played 15 games for the Falcons and contributed nine tackles, three interceptions and four passes defensed. Originally a third-round pick by Tennessee in 2013, he also played three seasons for the Titans, making 11 starts in 2014. Overall, he has played in 75 games with 17 starts, recording 132 tackles, four interceptions and 28 passes defensed.
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.
An individual player can only be elevated twice during the regular season. However, additional elevations for any player are possible as replacements for teammates who are on the COVID list. After the game, Barner and Wreh-Wilson will automatically revert to the practice squad without having to pass through waivers.
Perriman was last seen loping into the end zone at the end of a game-winning 58-yard touchdown catch in the Bucs' overtime victory over the Buffalo Bills last Sunday. He returned to the Buccaneers on November 10, starting on the practice squad first and getting two game day elevations before being promoted to the active roster. He has played in four games overall this season, catching four passes for 82 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. Perriman was primarily splitting time with Tyler Johnson as the Buccaneers' third receiver.
Originally a first-round pick (26th overall) by the Ravens in 2015, Perriman had a three-year tenure in Baltimore largely marred by injuries. He had 43 catches for 576 yards and three touchdowns in 27 games for the Ravens before being released early in 2018 and then catching on with Cleveland at midseason. After he provided a series of big plays for the Browns, catching 16 passes for 340 yards (21.3-yard average) and two touchdowns in 10 games, he signed with the Buccaneers as an unrestricted free agent in 2019.
In Tampa, Perriman had the best season of his NFL career in Bruce Arians' first season as the Buccaneers' head coach. He finished with 36 catches for 645 yards and six touchdowns in 14 games, averaging 17.9 yards per grab. Much of that production came in December after hamstring injuries sidelined wideouts Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. In his final three games as a Buccaneer, Perriman topped 100 receiving yards each time and recorded a total of 17 receptions for 349 yards and four touchdowns. He signed with the Jets in 2020 and then went to camp with the Lions this summer before ending up in Chicago.