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Everything you need to know about how the NFL’s Practice Squad works

From who’s eligible to how much they’ll make

Hamilton Tiger Cats v Saskatchewan Roughriders Photo by Brent Just/Getty Images

We’ll likely know who the San Francisco 49ers select for their practice squad on Sunday. Before that happens, let’s go over the practice squad rules as well as the waiver-wire and how both work. The waiver order is the same as this year’s draft order, so San Francisco is 31st. After Week 3, the waiver priority is based on the reverse order of league standings.

Practice squad limits

Practice squads were limited to 10 players last season, but that was set to change with the new CBA. The number was increased to 12 players for the 2020 and 2021 seasons and then increased to 14 players in 2022. That all changed when the uncertainty of COVID-19 hit, and the league increased practice squads to 16 players for this season.

How often can players be called up during the season?

Practice squad players can be activated on the same day as a game as long as it’s before the team announces their inactives, which is 90 minutes prior to kickoff. The player doesn’t have to be elevated from the practice squad to the main roster. Teams can elevate two practice squad players per week, but the same player cannot be elevated two weeks in a row. Also, a player can only be called up to the roster twice in a season. This gives teams more flexibility than ever. It also allows teams not to worry about losing a player to waivers when they have to go back to the practice squad. These rules will come in handy this season, especially if a player tests positive for COVID-19.

Protecting your practice squad

Teams can designate four players every week that are protected from being signed by other teams. This protection starts on Tuesday each week, so every practice squad player is still available to be signed after their team’s game that week until the deadline on Tuesday. Let’s say wide receiver Kevin White progresses into a threat, and the team calls him up after impressing in practice. The 49ers could protect any other team from claiming White. That wouldn’t have been the case in years past.

Adding experience to the practice squad

Last year teams could have up to 4 players who had two years of NFL experience. This year, teams can have six veterans with no limit on the number of accrued seasons in the league. I know Johnathan Cyprien said he wasn’t interested, but the 49ers provide a great opportunity for a veteran like him.

Weekly payment

Practice squad players make $8,400 per week or $134,400 for 16 games. Veteran players with over two years of experience will make $12,000 per week or $192,000 for 16 games.