The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Week Four list of protected practice squad players includes two veterans added since the start of the season in running back Kenjon Barner and cornerback Ross Cockrell. This is the first time the Buccaneers have protected those two players, who are on the team's 16-man practice squad as two of a possible six "veteran exceptions."
The team also chose to protect wide receiver Cyril Grayson and kicker Greg Joseph. None of those four players can be signed by other teams to their active rosters between Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. ET and midnight after Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Chargers.
In other practice squad news, the Buccaneers have a spot open on that 16-man crew after the San Francisco 49ers signed tight end Daniel Helm off of it to their active roster.
Grayson and Joseph have been on the protected list all four weeks so far, and there are no limits to how many times a specific player can be protected in a season. The option to protect up to four practice squad players from being signed away during the week was added when the NFL and NFLPA agreed upon a number of temporary changes to the CBA to allow greater roster flexibility during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even with the new rule, all practice squad players still have the opportunity to sign with other teams' active rosters. No players are protected on Monday or on Tuesday before the deadline, so players may speak with other teams during that period.
Cockrell was just signed to the Buccaneers' practice squad last week. The seventh-year veteran has played in 68 NFL games with the Bills, Steelers, Giants and Panthers, with 43 starts. Last year, he started 11 games for Carolina and recorded two interceptions and eight passes defensed. The Buccaneers may have been motivated to protect their cornerback depth after starter Sean Murphy-Bunting sustained a hamstring injury in Denver on Sunday.
Barner made his Buccaneers debut against the Broncos after being elevated from the practice squad for that game. Practice squad elevations are a separate and unrelated new rule to practice squad protections; the protected players can also be elevated in the same week but do not have to be. Any specific player can only be elevated twice in one season. Barner played a handful of special teams snaps against the Broncos.