Wide receiver Cyril Grayson, who turned in perhaps the biggest play of the season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 17, will be a part of the game plan next Sunday against the Carolina Panthers, too. On Monday, Head Coach Bruce Arians made it clear that Grayson would be in the mix in Week 18, even though the second-year receiver reverted to the practice squad on Monday.
"We'll wait and see about roster moves, but Cyril will be out there," said Arians.
The roster move to which Arians was referring is the potential promotion of Grayson to the 53-man roster. That had not happened yet as of Tuesday, but the Buccaneers did make a move to ensure that Grayson and three of his fellow practice squad members would be available this weekend. On Tuesday, Tampa Bay submitted its weekly list of protected practice squad players, and it's the same one as last week: Grayson, running back Kenjon Barner, kicker Jose Borregales and punter Sterling Hofrichter
Grayson, Barner and Hofrichter have all been major contributors in the Buccaneers' past two victories after being elevated from the practice squad for game day. Grayson has essentially taken over the role of third receiver in the Bucs' offense and over the last two games has recorded 176 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. His 62-yard reception at Carolina tied for the longest by a Buccaneer this season and set up a Cameron Brate touchdown in a 32-6 win over the Panthers. Grayson then topped that with a stunning 33-yard game-winning touchdown catch with 15 seconds remaining to beat the New York Jets last weekend. Grayson also caught a 50-yard touchdown at New Orleans in Week Eight.
Barner has taken over as the team's kickoff and punt returner for the two games that rookie wideout Jaelon Darden has been on the reserve/COVID list. Hofrichter has filled in for punter Bradley Pinion as the veteran has dealt with hip and COVID issues, handling all the punting and kickoff duties and serving as the holder on placekicks.
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 a period of almost 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.