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NFL Practice Squad: Salary, Rules, Player Eligibility

Later today the San Francisco 49ers and the rest of the National Football League will cut down their rosters from 80 to 53. Some teams have already started their cuts but it the 49ers and many other teams are waiting until today to handle their business. Cuts can happen no later than 3pm pacific, at which point there will be a flood players hitting waivers.

Some of these released players will end up being claimed off waivers by another team. If a team makes a waiver claim that player has to go on their 53-man roster and cannot immediately be stashed on the practice squad. Once waivers is run, any players not claimed are then eligible to sign with any practice squad in the league starting this Sunday, September 4.

All the 49ers rookies are of course eligible for the practice squad. In addition, the following players are eligible for the practice squad:

OT Alex Boone
CB Tramaine Brock
FB Jack Corcoran
G Nick Howell
LB Alex Joseph
WR Kevin Jurovich
LB Keaton Kristick
S Chris Maragos
RB Xavier Omon
S Curtis Taylor
DE Will Tukuafu
WR Kyle Williams

I reference these players because some of the decisions we'll see today will be made in part because one player has practice squad eligibility and one player does not. The question becomes whether the team thinks a player will be able to clear waivers.

Since the details can get a bit foggy about how the practice squad works, after the jump, we take a look at the rules and details surrounding the unit.

In order to be eligible for the practice squad, players must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Have no prior Accrued Seasons in the NFL (An accrued season is six or more games on the active roster);
  • Have one prior Accrued Season in which the player was on the 45-man active roster for no more than 8 games;
  • If served two seasons on a practice squad, are eligible for a third season only if the team has at least 53 players on its active/inactive list for the duration of that player's employment.

It's worth noting that a player will be considered to have served on a practice squad in a season if he were a member of a practice squad for three regular or postseason games during his first two practice squad seasons, or for one regular season or postseason game during a third practice squad season.

Players on the practice squad can earn a minimum of $5,700 per week in 2011. It is worth noting teams can pay a member of the practice squad anything above that amount but it appears as though it impacts the salary cap. For the 49ers that isn't really an issue whatever the rule is since they're so far under the cap at this point. Maybe that's why the 49ers have so much room. Ballin practice squad players!

It is also important to note that once a player signs with a practice squad, with one exception he can sign with another team's 53-man roster at any point during the season. The one exception is that practice squad players may not sign a contract with his team's next opponent after 4pm ET six days preceding the game (10 days preceding in bye weeks). A player cannot sign a practice squad contract with one team and then leave to sign a practice squad contract with another team, unless the first team has released said player.

Finally, if a player is promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster, that player must remain there for three weeks and get paid the minimum salary for their status. If they are let go before the three weeks, they still receive the three weeks pay.

There is one exception to this called the Contagious Disease Addendum, which was first added in June 2010 in a side letter agreement to the last CBA. This states that if a player is promoted from the practice squad for a game because a club was given a roster exemption due to confirmed or suspected cases of contagious disease among its players, the player remains on his practice squad contract, but will be paid 1/17 of the league minimum salary. After the game he will be returned to the practice squad without having to clear waivers.