That’s a dose of good news for a draft-and-develop team such as the Green Bay Packers, which has an abundance of intriguing young players not good enough to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.
“I think it’s awesome. They could give us as many as they want,” coach Mike McCarthy said after Tuesday’s practice but before the news was announced by the league. “It’s an opportunity to keep your players, continue to train those guys and it gives them an opportunity for an NFL job. We’ve never looked at it as having 53 players. We’ve always talked in terms of having 61 and I’d be thrilled if it goes to 63.”
Among the practice squad players in 2012 was tight end Brandon Bostick, who’s in line to be the No. 1 player at the position. In 2013, Jake Stoneburner, Scott Tolzien, Myles White and Michael Hill opened the season on the practice squad before receiving in-season promotions.
“We value the ability to develop players on the practice squad just like it’s meant to be,” general manager Ted Thompson said on Tuesday morning. “There are some people who might treat it more like these guys are just practice guys and it doesn’t count. But from my point of view, our practice squad guys are told from the very beginning when they sign that practice contract, their job is to get ready to play and help us win. It may be next week, it may be 10 weeks from now, but that’s what their job is. It’s to help us get ready to win games. And that means getting ready to play, play on offense, defense, run down on kickoffs, whatever it’s going to be. When we have people get dinged up during the course of the season, we normally fill it with one of our practice squad players as opposed to somebody off the street.”
The extension runs through the 2015 season and will need to be extended to continue to 2016 and beyond.
In addition to the expanded number of players, the criteria for practice squad eligibility has been increased in two respects.
A player must have a minimum of six games on a practice squad — increased from the previous three games — for that year to count as one of three permissible seasons on the squad.
And each team now can sign a maximum of two practice squad players who have earned no more than two NFL seasons toward free agency. Aside from that exception, a player with one or more accrued seasons can't go on a practice squad unless he spent fewer than nine games on a club's 46-player active list in each of his pro seasons. That clause would make Stoneburner eligible to be retained.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com, and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.