Someday, the names Cyril Grayson and Mazzi Wilkins will be the answer to a trivia question regarding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and one of the strangest seasons in NFL history.
On Saturday, the Buccaneers elevated Grayson and Wilkins from their 16-man practice squad to serve as their 54th and 55th eligible players for Sunday's game in New Orleans. The Buccaneers may now choose to keep up to 48 of those 55 players active for the game, as long as eight of those 48 are offensive linemen. If Tampa Bay only chooses to keep seven offensive linemen active, then they can only keep 47 active players overall.
Grayson, a wide receiver, and Wilkins, a cornerback, could be among those 47 or 48 active players, or the Buccaneers could put both of them on their inactive list on Sunday. The final decisions on which players will be active will probably depend upon the injury report.
Wide receiver Mike Evans practiced in a limited fashion on Friday but did not participate in the team's workouts the rest of the week. Head Coach Bruce Arians has referred to Evans as a "game-time decision," and on Saturday the team changed his game-status designation from "doubtful" to "questionable." Meanwhile, two of the other four players on Tampa Bay's Week One injury report were cornerbacks – Ryan Smith, who has an ankle injury, and Parnell Motley, who is dealing with a hamstring ailment. Both Smith and Motley practiced without limitations on Friday and were not given any game-status designations, but the Buccaneers added a bit of insurance at the position with Wilkins' elevation.
View photos of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 53-man roster.
Though a number of rules regarding the roster, the practice squad and various reserve lists were renegotiated just before training camp to give teams more roster flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic, this new option of weekly promotions was a part of the original new CBA that was ratified in March. The NFL and NFLPA did not decide to expand regular-season rosters from the previous limit of 53 players but they did come up with a way for teams to have a couple more players available on game days.
Grayson and Wilkins are the first Buccaneers to get this practice squad elevation – there's your trivia answer – and they were also among four players the team elected to "protect" on Tuesday. While practice squad players are usually eligible to sign with other teams' active rosters at any time, this year a team can eliminate that risk with four of their 16 practice squad players each week. The list can be different for each game. This week, the Buccaneers protected Grayson, Wilkins, quarterback Josh Rosen and kicker Greg Joseph.
The new game day elevation rule does not require a player to pass through waivers when they return to the practice squad after the game. However, this option can only be used by a team on a specific player twice during the season. That player could be elevated two more times by another team if he changes teams during the season. If a team has used up its two elevation options on a player but still wants to add him to the active roster, they would have to go through the usual means, including waivers if he is subsequently sent back to the practice squad.