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Buffalo Bills protect three on practice squad before game against Tennessee Titans

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

Once again, the Buffalo Bills have only protected three practice squad players for Week 6. They have the option to protect up to four players from signing with another team’s active roster between Tuesday and the end of the game that weekend (or in this case, Monday). The rule is in response to COVID-19, to make sure teams have at least 57 players to choose from on game day.

This is the fifth week in a row the team decided to only use three instead of four protections. It doesn’t cost them anything to protect a player, and by leaving a spot open, maybe they can protect a player later in the week. It’s a curious move, but they certainly aren’t alone around the league.

This week it is once again OL Jamil Douglas, CB Cam Lewis, and DB Josh Thomas. With only five cornerbacks on the 53-man roster and four safeties, it makes sense that they would protect themselves from a potential problem on the back end of the defense. The cornerbacks have been banged up earlier in the year, though all of them played last week. Thomas hedges against Jordan Poyer’s injury. The safety missed Week 4.

It’s probably good news for Matt Milano that no linebackers were protected. Hopefully that means he’ll be able to play Monday. The Bills didn’t call up anyone from the practice squad last week when he didn’t play, though.

Lewis was called up to the active roster for the first time this season in Week 4 as a result of Taron Johnson’s injury, and got the start as the team’s slot cornerback. He gets one more free call up before the Bills would need to sign him to the active roster for real.

With fully vaccinated players able to come in and play on a day’s notice, the practice squad protections have lost some of their luster from a year ago, when players would take almost a full week from entry into the league’s protocols to being able to play in a game.