To the casual fan, the Practice Squad is an enigma. It could be considered the equivalent of a Baseball teams farm club, but in a smaller format. These units consist of less athletically developed or less skilled players, and for young players, the practice squad keeps alive their hope of making an NFL roster. It also lets a team keep a player that needs a little more development on the roster, but not count on the active list on game day. This leaves teams a bit of room to maneuver. With only days to go before Training Camp starts, let's take a look at what the Practice Squad is all about.
The Practice Squad consists of up to 8 players that a team may keep, in addition to the regular 53 man Active roster. It is usually made up of rookies who were cut in training camps and borderline pro-caliber players. Both rookies and young veterans are eligible for the practice squad. A player cannot be on the practice squad for more than 3 seasons, or if he has accrued a year of NFL experience. One year is defined as; 6 or more games on a club's 53-man active roster or on the official IR list.
Practice squads give young players a chance to improve their skill level by practicing against the regular roster players during the regular season.They gain valuable experience that may allow them to ultimately make a regular roster later that year or in subsequent years. As regular roster players become injured during the long NFL season, many clubs call upon their practice squad players to come in and fill the void created by the injured players.
Practice squad players get to practice along with the rest of the team during the week, but they do not 'suit up' for actual games. They are paid considerably less than active squad players: The minimum salary from 2008 to 2010 is $5,200 per week for 17 weeks, or $88,400 per season. This includes the playoffs.That isn't much. By comparison, the minimum rookie salary is $285,000.
A player signed to a practice squad contract with one NFL club is completely free to sign a contract and play on the 53-man active-inactive list of any NFL club, not just his practice squad club. So the player remains a FA for purposes of signing an NFL contract. However, if one team 'poaches' a player from another teams Practice Squad, that team must place that player immediately on their 53 man roster.
Also, the NFL had a program through which foreign players could be assigned to teams' practice squads, called the International Practice Squad Program. The initiative, which entered its 5th year in 2008, featured 16 players joining the practice squads of NFL teams.
MANUEL PADILLA was one of those international practice squad players. You might remember him being assigned to the Broncos in 2008. Under the terms of the NFL’s International Practice Squad Program, Padilla spent the entire 2008 season with the Broncos. He was eligible to compete in the club’s preseason contests but could not play in a regular-season game. I believe this was a failed experiment and seemed like more of a 'Global' public image gimmick than anything else for the League. I say this because the NFL Europe is now defunct and that is where these players came from.
Tuesday, Sep 1, 2009, is a key date on the calendars of some 500 players around the league that are trying to make an NFL roster. This is the day that clubs must reduce their rosters from 80 to 75 players. 4 days later, on Saturday, Sep 5, 2009, teams must reduce their roster yet again to the regular roster limit of 53 players. While many players will face disappointment when they learn they've been cut, a small group of 256 will be allowed to fill the practice squads of their respective teams, and hopefully improve their skills to NFL caliber.
Here are the Rules regarding Practice Squad players. From the Collective Bargaining Agreement, Under Article XXXIV:
Section 2. Signing With Other Clubs:
(a) Any player under contract to a Club as a practice squad player shall be completely free to negotiate and sign a Player Contract with any Club at any time during the League Year, to serve as a player on any Club’s Active or Inactive List, and any Club is completely free to negotiate and sign such a Player Contract with such player, without penalty or restriction, including, but not limited to, Draft Choice Compensation between Clubs or First Refusal Rights of any kind, or any signing period, except that such player shall not be permitted to sign a Player Contract with another Club to serve as a practice squad player while under contract as a practice squad player.
(b) Notwithstanding Subsection (a) above, a practice squad player may not sign an NFL Player Contract with his Club’s next opponent later than 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the sixth day preceding the game (except in bye weeks, when the prohibition commences on the tenth day preceding the game).
Section 3. Salary: Minimum salary for a practice squad player shall be $4,700 per week for the 2006-07 League Years, $5,200 per week for the 2008-10 League Years and the 2011 League Year if it is an Uncapped Year, and $5,700 per week for the 2011 League Year if it is a Capped Year and the 2012 League Year, including postseason weeks in which his Club is in the playoffs.
Section 4. Eligibility:
(a) The practice squad shall consist of the following players, provided that they have not served more than two previous seasons on a Practice Squad: (i) players who do not have an Accrued Season of NFL experience; and (ii) free agent players who were on the Active List for fewer than nine regular season games during their only Accrued Season(s). An otherwise eligible player may be a practice squad player for a third season only if the Club by which he is employed that season has at least 53 players on its Active/Inactive List during the entire period of his employment.
(b) A player shall be deemed to have served on a Practice Squad in a season if he has passed the club’s physical and been a member of the club’s Practice Squad for at least three regular season or postseason games during his first two Practice Squad seasons, and for at least one regular season or postseason game during his third Practice Squad season. (A bye week counts as a game provided that the player is not terminated until after the regular season or postseason weekend in question.)
Section 5. Active List: If a player on the Practice Squad of one club (Club A) signs an NFL Player Contract with another club (Club B), (1) the player shall receive three weeks salary of his NFL Player Contract at the 53- player Active/Inactive List minimum even if he is terminated by Club B prior to earning that amount, and (2) Club B is required to count the player on its 53-player Active/Inactive List for three games (a bye week counts as a game) even if he is terminated or assigned via waivers to another club or is signed as a free agent to another club’s 53-player roster or another club’s Practice Squad prior to that time. If the player is terminated from Club B’s 53-player roster and signed to Club B’s Practice Squad, he shall continue to count on the club’s 53-player Active/Inactive List but shall not count against the eight-player Practice Squad limit until the three-game requirement has been fulfilled. If a player is terminated prior to the completion of the three-game period and is signed to Club B’s Practice Squad or is signed or assigned to another club’s 53-player roster or Practice Squad, any salary (as that term is defined in Article XXIV, Section 1(c)) that he receives from any NFL club applicable to the three-game period shall be an offset against the three weeks salary that he is entitled to receive from Club B.
All of the Broncos 2009 draft picks will be eligible for this years Practice Squad, however, the first 5 picks Moreno, Ayers, Smith, McBath, and Quinn shouldn't be considered as "development" players since they are expected to see enough playing time to render them ineligible by seasons end. Not only that, but the team should find a spot just so they don't get poached by a rival team.
The other players that will be eligible by the end of camp include, FS David Bruton OG Seth Olsen, WR Kenny McKinley, QB Tom Brandstater, C Blake Schlueter, DT Matthias Askew, G Mitch Erickson, G Pat Murray, T Clint Oldenburg, T Stanley Bryant, WR David Grimes, WR Matthew Willis, WR Lucas Taylor, WR Nate Swift, DE Ryan McBean, DE Rulon Davis, NT Chris Baker, NT Everette Pedescleaux, ILB Lee Robinson, CB Tony Carter, and CB D.J.(Dominique) Johnson.