The injuries suffered on Sunday night by Chris Godwin, Mike Evans and Leonard Fournette are going to necessarily change how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers operate on offense in the coming weeks. They also likely influenced this week's list of protected players on the practice squad.
The Buccaneers used all four of their protection options again in Week 16, with two of them going to running back Kenjon Barner and wide receiver Cyril Grayson. Barner just joined the Bucs' practice squad last week after Giovani Bernard went to injured reserve. Grayson has been on that practice squad all season but hasn't been protected since Week Eight.
The Buccaneers other two protection spots went to familiar options, with kicker Jose Borregales getting that designation for the 15th game in a row and cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson on the list for the eighth consecutive game.
Godwin has already been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury, while Evans and Fournette are likely to miss time due to a pair of hamstring strains. The Bucs did just get wide receiver Antonio Brown back from a league suspension but still have wideout Breshad Perriman on the reserve/COVID-19 list. At running back, the Bucs were down to just Ronald Jones and Ke'Shawn Vaughn in the second half of Sunday's game after Fournette was sidelined.
Barner is in his second stint with the Buccaneers, having spent most of last year on Tampa Bay's practice squad. He played in six games for the Bucs in 2020, primarily as a return man, averaging 5.8 yards on 13 punt returns and 23.9 yards on seven kickoff returns. Barner has played in 73 career games with one start, rushing 100 times for 416 yards and three touchdowns and catching 28 passes for another 152 yards.
Grayson has already played in two games for the Bucs this year as a practice squad elevation. His one catch in 2020 went for 50 yards and a touchdown to briefly give the Bucs a fourth-quarter lead in their Week Eight loss at New Orleans. He has played in seven games over the past three seasons, also catching one three-yard pass in 2019.
The option to protect a limited number of practice squad 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 most weeks, that protection starts at 4:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday and extends through game day. No players are protected for close to two days following a game, so every practice squad player in the league still has an opportunity each week to sign with another team's active roster.