The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Week Five list of protected players on the practice squad reflects the areas of the depth chart that are currently hit hard by injuries.
The Buccaneers used all four of their protection options in Week Five, most notably putting that designation on cornerback Rashard Robinson and safety Troy Warner. Tight end Codey McElroy was also protected for the first time, while kicker Jose Borregales was on the list for the fourth week in a row.
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.
These protections guarantee that Borregales, McElroy, Robinson and Warner will be available for possible game-day elevations or promotions to the active roster if the Bucs deem that necessary this weekend. They can elevate up to two players from the practice squad for the game against Miami, as they did in Week Four with McElroy and Robinson against the Patriots.
That could be important, as the Bucs are dealing with a long list of injuries, particularly in the secondary. Cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting is on injured reserve, cornerback Jamel Dean missed last Sunday's game with a knee ailment and cornerback Carlton Davis left that game with a quad injury. Robinson has played in each of the last two games after being elevated, albeit only on special teams so far. The protection of Warner could be a reaction to a concussion suffered by safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. on Sunday night; Head Coach Bruce Arians said on Monday that it might be difficult for Winfield to get through the concussion protocol in time to play in Sunday's game against the Dolphins.
McElroy played four snaps on offense against the Patriots while Rob Gronkowski was sidelined with a ribs injury. Gronkowski could miss additional time and the Buccaneers currently only have two other tight ends on the 53-man roster.
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.
All of the 16 players on the Buccaneers' practice squad are eligible to be elevated to the active roster for game day, whether they are protected that week or not. In addition to the two standard elevation options each week, players can be elevated to take the spot of players on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The Buccaneers used that option on Robinson and Deon Yelder in Week Three.