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NFL practice squad rules explained, more mailbag answers

Opening our first mailbag of the summer

Post Offices Brace For Busiest Mailing Day Of The Year Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

It’s mailbag time again. We start this week with a question about practice squad rules and construction, and it’s important to know the rules and how they are changing this season. So, let’s get started.

Jeffrey Itell asks: At some point, will BBV remind us how the practice squad works? Do players have to pass waivers to get placed on the practice squad? How secure are players on the practice squad from being signed by other teams? And are there differences between players with different levels of experience? (Can a team securely stash UDAs and draft picks but risk losing one-year plus players?)

Ed says: Ask and you shall receive. We will do that right now.

Each team is allowed to have 10 players on a practice squad. Those players practice with the team during the season, but are not eligible to be part of the game-day roster.

The practice squad is mostly for young, developmental players. To be eligible for practice squad inclusion, a player cannot have more than two accrued seasons of NFL experience. An accrued season is six or more games on the active roster, or a year of experience on a club's 53-man active roster. If the player was on the active list for fewer than nine games during their "only Accrued Season(s)," he maintains his eligibility for the practice squad.

The NFL maintains the integrity of the idea that practice squads are for young players in a couple of ways. First, there is a limit to the number of players with two accrued seasons a team can keep on a practice squad. In 2016, that number will be increased from two to four players. Thus, a player like running back Orleans Darkwa, with two years of NFL experience, would be practice squad eligible if he does not make the 53-man roster. A veteran player such as linebacker Mark Herzlich or safety Cooper Taylor would not be practice squad eligible.

Do players have to pass through waivers? Yes, players cut at the end of the preaseason or during the season are subject to waivers. If they go unclaimed they become free agents and can be sign to the practice squad if they have eligibility.

How secure are players on the practice squad from being signed by other teams? The aren’t secure at all. Any player on a practice squad is eligible to be signed by another NFL team, provided that team immediately places the signed player on the active 53-man roster. Teams can’t sign a player from another team’s practice and place him on their own practice squad.

Can a team securely stash UDAs and draft picks but risk losing one-year plus players? Nope. All practice squad players are treated equally. You can’t “stash” anyone. You can hope to keep a player there and develop him, but if another team comes calling with a spot on an active roster that player is likely gone. This is how teams often fill spots of players who go on IR, by signing players off practice squads from other teams. The Giants have done it a number of times in recent years.

David Matouzzi asks: Coughlin was a coach who liked to play things close to the vest. With McAdoo now calling the shots, any chance the Giants might end up on HBO's Hard Knocks this preseason?

Ed says: The Los Angeles Rams have already been selected as the team to be featured on “Hard Knocks” this summer. Being the subject of the show would have driven former coach Tom Coughlin up a tree. I can’t say for sure how Ben McAdoo would feel about it, but I have a suspicion he might be more open to the idea.

Ed says: Obviously, everyone is going to say the right things and be very positive. That would be the case whether they meant it or not. With that said, there is a lot of optimism, many of the drills we see are different, it feels and looks like there is a lot of teaching going on. Of course, this group is untested in working together during the crush of game-time pressure, but so far so good. Personally, I’m anxious to see if the additions of offensive line coach MIke Solari and defensive line coach Patrick Graham make a difference.

Ed says: Using that “first-team” criteria the answer has to be Darian Thompson. He is a guy I had pegged as a fit for the Giants, but throughout the spring he looked far more comfortable than I expected. We’ll see if that continues.