The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have identified the four practice squad players they will protect in Week Two: wide receiver Cyril Grayson, kicker Greg Joseph, inside linebacker Chapelle Russell and cornerback Mazzi Wilkins.
The option to protect players from being signed away by other teams is one of a number of new rules involving the practice squad in 2020. The new collective bargaining agreement that was ratified in March included a new rule that allows teams to elevate two players from their practice squad and increase their game day rosters to 55 spots, with a maximum of 48 active. Later, when portions of the CBA were amended to help players and teams operate in a season affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, those practice squads were increased to 16 players and the new protection rule was added.
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.
Three of the four players the Bucs elected to protect in Week Two were also on their Week One list: Grayson, Joseph and Wilkins. Russell, a rookie drafted in the seventh round in April, is on the list for the first time; last week the team used that spot on quarterback Josh Rosen.
All 16 practice squad players are eligible for the aforementioned elevation on game day, including the four on the protected list. Last Saturday, the Buccaneers used that option to add Grayson and Wilkins to their pool of available players for Sunday's game in New Orleans. Those elevated players can be among a team's 48 active players for the game, but they don't have to be. Last week, the Buccaneers kept Wilkins active but made Grayson one of their inactives after Mike Evans was cleared to play before the game. Wilkins was available to play but did not see any snaps against the Saints.