Veteran running back Kenjon Barner has been elevated from the practice squad to the active roster for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.
This is the second straight week that the Buccaneers have chosen to elevate Barner, who has played in 68 regular-season games for five different teams. A specific player can only be elevated by his team twice in a season under the NFL's new practice squad rules, so this is the last time the Buccaneers will have that option with Barner.
Elevating Barner increases the Buccaneers' pool of available players for their game against the Chargers to 54. They can keep 48 of those 54 players active for the game, as long as eight of them are offensive linemen.
Barner made his Buccaneer debut in Denver last week, and even though he only played four special teams snaps he had an effect on the game, according to Special Teams Coordinator Keith Armstrong. Barner served as the lead blocker to kickoff return man Jaydon Mickens, and the player that fills that position is generally one who also has experience returning kicks. The Broncos put three of their four kickoffs deep into the end zone for touchbacks, the exception being the free kick from their 25-yard line that followed Shaquil Barrett's safety.
"I'll tell you what – I thought they were going to kick the ball in play, [but] then I think they recognized that Kenjon was back there and they put it out of the end zone," said Armstrong. "He had an immediate impact on the game [Sunday]."
Barner has returned 48 kickoffs in his career, with an average of 23.4 yards per attempt. He has also averaged 7.7 yards on 72 career punt returns.
I really like him – he's aggressive. He's not going to fair catch very often, but he is aggressive and he will get the ball vertical," said Armstrong. "He's got great vision on the run [and] he's a guy that has that natural feel on kickoff return. He sets his blocks up well and he doesn't need a whole lot of blocking, which is what you're looking for in your kickoff return. Obviously, he does both as a punt returner as well. He brings value to the unit."
Tampa Bay signed Barner to their practice squad on September 10, using one of their veteran exceptions on the seventh-year running back and kick returner. Barner went to training camp with the Baltimore Ravens this summer but last year played for the Atlanta Falcons, returning 35 punts for 267 yards and one touchdown and 17 kickoffs for 406 yards.
Barner played for Carolina, Philadelphia, New England and Atlanta before coming to Tampa. In addition to his return contributions he has also rushed 100 times for 416 yards and three touchdowns and caught 28 passes for 152 yards.
The option to elevate up to two players from the practice squad for each game is new in 2020 and the Buccaneers have made use of it in each of the first four weeks. This is the second week in a row that the Bucs have chosen to elevate only one player. The Buccaneers do not have to make Barner active on game day. They will either name six inactives on Sunday if they choose to keep 48 players active or seven if they go with 47 players.
Barner will automatically revert to the Buccaneers' practice squad on Monday without having to pass through waivers. He could still be signed to the active roster but that, and any subsequent move to return him to the practice squad, would have to go through the normal means, including waivers.