The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will make sure four players can't be signed away from their practice squad before Saturday's Wild Card game in Washington, using their protection options on kicker Greg Joseph, guard Ted Larsen, cornerback Herb Miller and defensive lineman Benning Potoa'e.
Potoa'e is the newest name on the list, as he is being protected for the first time since Week Two. The rookie lineman made his NFL debut against Atlanta last Sunday after being elevated from the practice squad for the game, and the Buccaneers may need his help again on Saturday. Defensive linemen Steve McLendon (reserve/COVID-19 list) and Jeremiah Ledbetter (calf injury) remain in doubt as to their availability for the Wild Card game.
The protection of Miller is an obvious move as well, as he has played in four of the Bucs' last five contests after getting game-day elevations. The protection and elevation options are unrelated and players who are not protected can also be elevated, as was the case with Potoa'e last week. However, the Bucs clearly want to make sure they still have that elevation option with Miller on Saturday. Cornerback Carlton Davis has missed the last two games with a groin injury though he appears to have a good shot at returning to action on Saturday.
Joseph has been protected every week this season and gives the Bucs a ready fallback option if kicker Ryan Succop was to become suddenly unavailable late in the week. Larsen has been protected the last two weeks and he was also elevated for the Week 15 games in Atlanta. The Buccaneers have only carried eight offensive linemen on the 53-man roster since A.Q. Shipley was placed on injured reserve.
Each team in the NFL is allowed up to four practice squad protections per week, and they take effect at 4:00 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Protected players can not be signed away by another team from then through the day of the upcoming game. Unprotected players are always free to sign with another team if the new team is adding them to the 53-man active roster.
The practice squad protection rule was put in place over the summer as the CBA was revised to give teams greater roster flexibility amid the pandemic. All practice squad players still have opportunities to get promoted by other teams between when their team's game is played and the next Tuesday deadline.