With Rob Gronkowski still dealing with a back injury, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are making sure that tight end Codey McElroy is available for them this weekend.
McElroy was among the list of four players the Buccaneers put on their practice squad protection list in Week 10, along with kicker Jose Borregales, safety Troy Warner and cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson. The latter three were also on the team's most recent protection list, in Week Eight before the bye, but McElroy replaces wide receiver Cyril Grayson in the fourth spot.
The Buccaneers have already used both of their standard practice squad elevation option on McElroy, so if they wanted to activate him for Sunday's game at Washington they would have to find a spot for him on the 53-man roster. McElroy played a total of 16 offensive snaps in the Bucs' wins over New England and Miami in Weeks Four and Five. He also appeared in one game for Tampa Bay in the 2019 season, securing one 30-yard catch.
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 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 protection options.
Borregales has been a mainstay on the Bucs' weekly protection list, landing in that group for eight games in a row. Warner has been on the list five weeks in a row, and six times overall. Wreh-Wilson is a recent addition to the Buccaneers' practice squad but has been protected in each of the past two weeks. Tampa Bay's defense has dealt with a series of injuries at cornerback and while Richard Sherman and Sean Murphy-Bunting could return to action soon game-day depth remains a concern.