The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are using all four of their practice squad protection options in Week Four, including two on cornerbacks Pierre Desir and Rashard Robinson. The Buccaneers are already without starting cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting, who is on injured reserve, and are waiting to see if Jamel Dean will be able to play this week after sustaining a knee injury in Los Angeles.
The Buccaneers are also protecting kicker Jose Borregales and tight end Deon Yelder. Along with Robinson, Yelder was elevated from the practice squad last weekend and both players took part on special teams against the Rams.
Yelder has been protected every week during the regular season so far, and Borregales has been protected in each of the last three. Since signing Desir on September 13, the Buccaneers have protected him for each of the last two games.
The option to protect 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 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. Teams are allowed to elevate up to two players for each game, which the Buccaneers did in Week One but not in Week Two. Additional players can be elevated to take the spot of players on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The Buccaneers used that option on Robinson and Yelder last week.