How does the LA Rams practice squad work?

(Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
(Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) /

The 2019 LA Rams practice squad was very active, as the team called several players to their playing roster. But how does the practice squad work?

The LA Rams 2019 practice squad was very valuable to the team. As injuries forced starting players to be placed on injured reserve, and essentially lost for the season, the practice squad became an invaluable source for the “next man up” promotion. But it’s been some time since we’ve focused on exactly what a practice squad is, how it works, and some of the NFL rules governing its operation.

As the name suggests, each of the 32 NFL teams creates a 10 man practice squad which will train with the team throughout the season. The limits are that these players are not eligible to play in a regular season game.

Only players not under contract to any other NFL team or practice squad can be signed to the practice squad.

Each player is paid a minimum weekly salary for playing on the practice squad. For the 2019 season, that amount was $8,000 per week.  A full season is 17 weeks (bye weeks count) worth of salaries, or at least $136,00 earnings is paid out to each practice squad player who lasts an entire season.

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Perilous career

But lasting on the practice squad is perilous. An NFL team routinely adds and cuts players from the practice squad based on the 53 man roster depth, injury trend, and quality of play. Of course, there is also the other way for a practice squad player to leave. Any team can sign a player to their active 53 man roster.  The Rams had taken that option last season to replenish the ranks of the offensive line.  Once signed to the active roster, that player will be paid at least three weeks worth of wages by the team, even if spending only one day on the active roster.

Teams have no limits as to what they pay players on the practice squad. Those additional payments do not count towards a team’s annual salary cap.  However, teams can cut players at will. Once an active roster player is released, he must clear waivers. In essence, each NFL team can opt to pick up that player at their current contract price. The order is set by the NFL, and is the ranking of the teams based on an NFL formula of past records.  If no team opts to sign the player, the player has “cleared waivers” and can be signed to a practice squad of any team.

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We’ll revisit the practice squad mechanics as the NFL Draft and roster cut deadlines draw near. For now, a quick review is enough to get everyone up to speed.