The NFL made some news last week by expanding practice squads from eight to 10 players for the next two years, and by enacting rules making it easier for players to retain practice-squad eligibility for a longer period of time.
Which opens the door for a broader question: Why not get rid of all restrictions and limits on the practice squad?
Currently, the league and union have crafted the practice squad to provide young, inexperienced players an up-or-out opportunity to get practice reps and to earn not quite NFL wages but still a good living — currently $6,300 per week. So why create artificial rules that would limit the ability of a player to remain on the practice squad?
Ultimately, the practice squad gives a team extra bodies for the purposes of helping the team remain ready during the grind of the regular season, with a maximum of now 63 players available to each team. Why must the extra 10 players have only a handful of regular-season game appearances and/or one or two years of accrued service?
For many teams, having a few veterans in the locker room who may not be good enough to actually play but who have real value on the practice field helps both the team and the player, to the tune of $6,300 per week. It makes plenty of sense for the teams and the players, and thus the NFL and the NFLPA, to allow anyone and everyone, regardless of accrued years or number of game appearances, to join a practice squad.
As to the majority of former players who want to still be current players, it’s a great way to remain ready to play. It also pays a lot better ($107,100 per regular season) than plenty of the employment opportunities available to men for whom employment is no longer available on a 53-man roster.