Some players on the roster bubble received a bit of good news on Tuesday.
The NFL and NFL Players Association agreed to some major changes to the rules for practice squads for the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
The biggest change is the expansion of the practice squad maximum, from eight to 10 players.
The league also announced two changes to the rules for practice squad eligibility:
1. Players can still serve up to three seasons on a practice squad, but a player must be on a practice squad for a minimum of six games in order for that season to count as one of the three seasons. Previously, three games on a practice squad in a season would count toward the three-season maximum.
2. Each team can have up to two players on its practice squad who have been in the league for up to two seasons. Previously, players lost eligibility after playing in nine or more games in a season.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said on Tuesday that he approves of bigger practice squads, because it affords flexibility between bulking up positions needing depth and developing talented players where the team is already stacked with talent.
“You see a lot of juggling of practice squads throughout the first six weeks, half the season and that’s part of it,” Belichick said. “You get injuries or your roster changes a little bit and you need players on your practice squad to fill in those gaps. Or you find somebody that you like and think, ‘This guy has a chance to develop on our practice squad.’ You’re willing to take one of those spots, even if it’s a position of depth to work with that player because you like him.”
Some notable Patriots players who now have practice squad eligibility under the new rules include wide receiver Josh Boyce, safeties Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner, running back Brandon Bolden, offensive lineman Josh Kline, and defensive tackles Joe Vellano and Jerel Worthy.