John used this blog's submission form to e-mail me the following question: "What does it truly mean to be 'on the practice squad' anyway. ... Are they truly in uniform and out their practicing with the regulars on game weeks? I can't imagine they get many reps, or that any coaches have much time for them. No? Is it like the NBA having 15-man rosters but only 12 active for games? Is it really just an inactive list?"
I'll try to tackle your question in parts:
- Practice-squad players are in uniform and they do practice with the regulars on game weeks. But the practice-squad guys are there to give the regulars a "look" on the scout team, not to take their reps. For example, nose tackle Travis Ivey, a member of the Browns' practice squad, studied film of the Baltimore Ravens' defensive linemen so he could try to imitate it during practices this week, thus helping Cleveland's starting offensive linemen prepare for who they will face Sunday. This week, the 6-foot-4, 325-pound Ivey pretended to be Ravens defensive end Haloti Ngata, 6-4, 350 pounds. Sometimes, practice-squad players even line up in different positions just to help run drills. Two weeks ago, Ivey practiced at offensive tackle, even though he never played it before during his time at the University of Maryland or in high school.
- As for what it means to be on a practice squad, it's a lot of work. It means these guys hope they'll get a shot at making the 53-man roster, but being cut is also just around the corner and often more likely. Or, as Ivey said: "It's total selflessness. Nobody's goal is to be on practice squad, but at the same time you've got to show that you want to be one of the guys. It is part of (the business). Whatever you have to do. Some people don't get on practice squad. Some people just get cut, and that's it. Obviously, they see something in me that they like and want to develop a little bit. I'll do whatever I need to do, and if I get called up, it'll be my time."
- With practice-squad players being cut and moved around so often, there's a lot at stake for them. "There's always going to be an element of pressure," Ivey said. "But at the same time ... if you do your best and let the chips fall where they may, you'll have no regrets. I'm coming here from (the) Miami (Dolphins). I never thought I'd get released from Miami, so you do the best that you can do and see what happens."
- The practice squad is different than the inactive list. NFL teams have 53-man rosters. On game days, 45 of those 53 players are active, meaning eight are inactive. But practice-squad players are not included on that 53-man roster.
- Each team has eight practice-squad players. According to the collective bargaining agreement, the minimum salary for a practice-squad player this season is $5,200 per week. That's not a bad living, right? "$88,000-$98,000 for a season, I mean that's better than probably 95 percent of the U.S.," Ivey said. "You can't really do too much complaining."
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