After a disappointing 7-9 finish to the 2020 NFL Season, the New England Patriots are poised to erase their one-year postseason hiatus with a return to the playoffs in 2021. Should they qualify, the Pats will join other playoff qualifiers in gaining greater roster flexibility as they pursue a spot in Super Bowl LVI.
On Wednesday, the NFL announced some modifications to their rules regarding practice squad elevations for the 2021 postseason. Per a league-wide memo, all playoff teams will be allowed to promote practice squad players, regardless of their previous status as standard elevations. The move will provide teams with further player availability as COVID-19, especially as COVID-19 cases spike across the league.
In 2020, teams were given the option to elevate players from the practice squad to the gameday roster up to twice per season. After two standard elevations, the team would need to sign that player to its 53-man roster in order to use him again that season. With the change, teams may become more apt to use practice squad elevations as they head toward the postseason, knowing that practice-squadders are now permitted to be available without limits in the postseason. It should be noted, however, that the two-game elevation cap will remain in place for the remainder of the 2021 regular season.
The move coincides with COVID-19 cases spike across the league. Of course, elevations to replace players on the COVID-19/Reserve list do not count toward the regular-season limit.
What It Means for the Patriots
As they continue their playoff push, the Pats still have the majority of their practice squad available for at least one standard elevation.
Defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale is the only member of the practice squad currently out of standard elevations. Ekuale has made the most of his time on the field, compiling two sacks in each of his two appearances.
Safety Sean Davis, tight end Matt LaCosse, wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson and offensive lineman Will Sherman have all served as standard elevations once, thus far, in 2021.
Cornerback D’Angelo Ross, wide receiver Tre Nixon, quarterback Garrett Gilbert, defensive lineman Bill Murray, cornerback De’Vante Bausby, punter Corliss Waitman, kicker Quinn Nordin, running back Devine Ozigbo have yet to be elevated this season.
Offensive lineman James Ferentz re-joined the practice squad, after being released from the 53-man roster in early November. The 32-year-old had appeared in three games and started two this season. Ferentz served as a standard elevation twice, and once served as a COVID-19 replacement for the Patriots. The former Iowa Hawkeye had signed to the active roster on Oct. 27.
Fellow offensive lineman, Alex Redmond, who served as a standard elevation in October, was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday.
Following their bye week, the Patriots will return to action on Saturday, December 18 at 8:20pm against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium In Indianapolis, Indiana.