By Tim Graham
Every year around this time, my email inbox, Facebook page and Twitter feed get showered with practice-squad questions.
If (fill in the blank) doesn't make the 53-man roster, can he be signed to the practice squad?
These generally are tough questions to answer because the NFL's guidelines sometimes make a player's eligibility difficult to decipher. So I wanted to post the practice-squad eligibility rules for everyone to reference.
Here they are, unedited from the collective-bargaining agreement:
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. (For purposes of this Section, a bye week counts as a game provided that the player is not terminated until after the regular season or postseason weekend in question.)
There you have it.
And while we're on the subject, here are the guidelines for a player being signed from the practice squad to an active roster:
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, traded, 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 13, Section 4) 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. If the promotion occurs with fewer than three games remaining in the Club’s regular season, the three-game requirement for roster count shall not carry over into the next season.