The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will use all four of their practice squad protection options in Week 16, and it's becoming a familiar list. For the second week in a row, kicker Greg Joseph, wide receiver Jaydon Mickens, cornerback Herb Miller and guard John Molchon all got that designation, which means they're guaranteed to be available to the Buccaneers through Sunday's game at Detroit.
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.
The Buccaneers nearly needed Joseph last week when all three of their specialists, including kicker Ryan Succop, went on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday. As it turned out, all three tested negative repeatedly and were able to return by Friday and play in the Week 15 game at Atlanta. Even so, the Bucs made Joseph one of their two practice squad elevations for the game, which is a separate rule unrelated to the protection rule. Joseph was inactive for the game and Succop handled all the kicking. The Bucs have protected Joseph every week this season for the very possibility that almost happened last week.
Miller is protected for the third week in a row and it's now seven protections in a row for Molchon since he came off injured reserve and was put on the practice squad. Mickens has been protected the last two weeks after he came off the COVID list and was moved to the practice squad.