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Mailbag: Understanding The Practice Squad Rules?

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I've been wondering what, if any, is the benefit of signing a player to the practice squad first before putting them on the active roster, like Jason Peters and Cooper Rush for example? — SAN ANTONIO, TX / JOSH HANSON

Rob: In Peters' case, it gives him a chance to ramp up for a couple weeks without taking up a 53-man roster spot yet. In Rush's case, he's a vested veteran, so the Cowboys didn't have to risk him on waivers at final cuts, and he decided to sign back with them. The Cowboys can now make him a standard elevation this week as the expected backup to Dak Prescott. I think this is a good place to give a quick refresher of the practice squad rules, because they are different. There are 16 spots, though the Cowboys actually have 17 because of Isaac Alarcon's exemption through the NFL's International Pathway Program. Six veterans can be on the practice squad. There are two standard elevations allowed per game week, and a player can be elevated up to three times.

Kyle: While there's always an element of risk, the easy answers are either a slow ramp-up for NFL action, like in Jason Peter's case, or continuous practice reps without taking up a roster spot. Since 2020, changes in the practice squad roster rules have allowed for the protection of certain players on a weekly basis. Prior to the rule changes for the COVID-19 affected season, practice squad players were easily poachable from roster to roster. While that could still happen now, we see less movement because teams can protect two players from their practice squad each week by activating them for game day. So, in the example of Peters and Cooper Rush, there's not a risk to have them on the squad before eventually moving them up to the active roster. Players can be elevated for up to three games without taking up a 53-man roster spot, which is one more game than allowed in 2021. Eventually, they'd have to be given a full-time roster spot to avoid normal regulations around the practice squad, but that shouldn't be a problem since they're both expected to have a spot soon.

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