For the last two seasons, Buffalo Bills rugby player-turned-running back Christian Wade has received an exemption through the NFL’s International Pathway Program that allowed the team to carry an extra player on their roster. Originally, that exemption was set to expire this year; however, the NFL has granted IPP players a third exemption year.
WGR 550 Bills reporter Sal Capaccio tweeted the news last week, noting that Wade is now essentially “in the exact situation he’s been the last two years.” If Wade does not make Buffalo’s regular-season roster, the Bills can designate him as a protected player on their practice squad, which would have two implications: the team would be unable to call him up to the active roster for the duration of the 2021 season and other teams would be unable to claim Wade for their regular-season rosters.
As Capaccio notes, Wade could also make the Bills’ roster outright, thereby eliminating any need for an exemption heading into the season. A third, less likely option is that the Bills could release Wade, hope that he passes through conventional waivers, and then sign him to their practice squad as a standard member of that group without the exemption. Doing so would mean that Wade would be subject to the same rules governing all other players on an NFL practice squad.
Wade, who turns 30 in May, joined the Bills via the International Pathway Program in 2019. His only game action came during the preseason that year, and he started his NFL career with a bang. His first carry was a 65-yard rushing touchdown in Buffalo’s preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts. Wade carried a total of eight times for 84 yards and that touchdown, adding four receptions for 55 yards on seven targets.