The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have included veteran inside linebacker Deone Bucannon among their four protected practice squad players as they prepare for a Divisional Round playoff game in New Orleans on Sunday. That move reflects the changing needs on the 53-man roster due to injuries and illness.
The Buccaneers have also protected kicker Greg Joseph, guard Ted Larsen and cornerback Herb Miller, just as they did for the Wild Card round. Bucannon replaces defensive lineman Benning Potoa'e, who was also elevated to the active roster on game day and saw action against Washington. Since that game, defensive lineman Steve McLendon has come off the reserve/COVID-19 list but inside linebacker Kevin Minter has gone on it.
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.
Miller and Bucannon were also elevated to the active roster for the Wild Card game, with Bucannon playing in the contest and Miller named inactive on game day. Miller has been elevated for five of the past six games; in the postseason, there are no limits as to how often a specific player can be elevated. As the roster currently stands, the Buccaneers could elevate up to three players against the Saints, two as standard elevations and one as a COVID replacement for Minter.
Tampa Bay may need Larsen on Sunday. With starting right guard Alex Cappa out due to a fractured ankle the Bucs will turn to Aaron Stinnie as the new starter, leaving them without another reserve on the interior line. The Bucs have carried only eight offensive linemen on the active roster since A.Q. Shipley went on injured reserve in November, including reserve tackles Joe Haeg and Josh Wells. Haeg did start one game at left guard when Ali Marpet was out with a concussion.