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Bills vs. Patriots: practice-squad protections shift for Buffalo

The Bills used a much different strategy this week

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

The Buffalo Bills have been protecting fewer than the four allotted players on the practice squad for most of the season. This week, that changed after nearly three months of protecting less than four players.

This week, Buffalo chose cornerback Nick McCloud, safety Josh Thomas, DT Eli Ankou, and DT Brandin Bryant to protect. McCloud had not previously been protected, but the injury to Tre’Davious White makes him more valuable.

Ankou and Bryant are hedges against the return of Star Lotulelei, who is coming off the COVID-19 list. The pair of DTs both played last week against the New Orleans Saints and the Bills benched DT Vernon Butler and DE Boogie Basham.

Every team has 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. The rule is in response to COVID-19, to make sure teams have at least 57 players to choose from on game day.

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.