With 16 spots instead of 10, potential game-day promotions and weekly protection decisions to make, NFL practice squads are going to be even more fluid than usual. Four days into the first week of the season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have already made a change to their practice squad, necessitated by a player taking an opportunity elsewhere.
On Thursday, the Buccaneers signed running back Kenjon Barner to that crew, filling a spot that had opened when running back Raymond Calais terminated his practice squad contract and signed to the Los Angeles Rams' active roster.
The Bucs end up with the same number of running backs in the building, though they ended up with a more experienced player. Calais was a seventh-round draft pick by the Buccaneers this past spring while Barner is a seventh-year NFL player who has seen regular-season action for Carolina, Philadelphia, New England and Atlanta. Barner was most recently in training camp with the Baltimore Ravens before being released in last weekend's league-wide roster cuts.
View photos of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 53-man roster.
The Bucs added Barner, who has played in 67 NFL games, to the practice squad with one of their six veteran exceptions. The size of the practice squad and the number of exceptions for more experienced players was increased during negotiated revisions of the collective bargaining agreement prior to the start of NFL training camps. The point of both changes is to allow teams greater flexibility as they try to operate amid a pandemic that could suddenly make multiple players unavailable.
Barner (5-9, 193) has compiled career NFL totals of 100 carries for 416 yards and three touchdowns, with an average of 4.2 yards per carry. He has also caught 28 passes for 152 yards, returned 75 punts for 555 yards (7.7-yard average) and run back 48 kickoffs for 1,124 yards (23.4-yard average). His most productive seasons as a runner came with Philadelphia in 2015 and 2016, in which he combined for 55 carries for 253 yards (4.6-yard average) and two touchdowns.
Barner played for the Falcons in 2019, primarily serving as a punt and kickoff returner. He averaged 7.6 yards on 35 punt returns and 23.9 yards on 17 kickoff returns. Last year, he was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week in Week 11 after returning a punt 78 yards for a touchdown against Carolina. Barner also won the same award in Week Five of the 2017 season while with the Eagles.
The former Oregon standout first entered the league as sixth-round draft pick by the Panthers in 2013. He saw little action as a rookie before being traded to the Eagles in the middle of the 2014 preseason. After four seasons in Philadelphia he played a combined nine games with the Panthers and Patriots in 2018 before signing with the Falcons last year.
The addition of Barner means the Bucs are back to having five running backs in the building between the active roster and the practice squad. Tampa Bay's backfield depth chart for Sunday's opener includes starter Ronald Jones and reserves LeSean McCoy, Leonard Fournette and Ke'Shawn Vaughn.