In sports, the practice squad, also called the taxi squad, is a group of players signed by a team but not part of their main roster. Frequently used in American or Canadian football, these squads consist of less athletically developed or skilled players. They serve as extra players during the team's practices, often as part of the scout team emulating an upcoming opponent's play style.
Cleveland Browns coach Paul Brown invented the "taxi squad," a group of promising scouted players who did not make the roster but were kept on reserve. The team owner, Mickey McBride, put them on the payroll of his taxi company, although they did not drive cabs.
National Football League
Each NFL team may keep up to ten members on its "practice squad" in addition to the 53-member main roster. They consist mostly of rookies who were cut in training camps and borderline NFL-caliber players. Both rookies and young veterans are eligible for the practice squad. However, a player cannot participate on the practice squad for more than three seasons; he is eligible for a third season only if the team has at least 53 players on its active/inactive list for the duration of that player's employment, or have no prior accrued seasons in the NFL (an accrued season is six or more games on the active roster); or if he has accrued a year of NFL experience on a club's 53-man active roster. If the player was on the active list for fewer than 9 games during their "only Accrued Season(s)", he maintains his eligibility for the practice squad. Games in which a player is listed as the third-string quarterback (a designation that has been abolished as of 2011) do not count as being on the active list.
Practice squad players practice alongside regular roster players during the week, but they are not allowed to play in actual games. They can be paid considerably less than active squad players: The minimum salary from 2008 to 2010 was $5,200 per week (2008-2010) for 17 weeks, or $88,400 per season, in comparison to the NFL minimum rookie salary of $420,000. In 2012 the minimum salary for a practice squad player was $5,700 per week, and the minimum rookie salary in 2012 was $390,000. Some practice squad players are paid considerably more, however. In 2006, the New England Patriots paid third-year player Billy Yates the full $425,000 he would have earned on the active roster.
Practice squad players are free agents; they can be signed to any team's 53-man roster at any time during the season. In other words, NFL teams are free to "poach" other teams' practice squads without compensating the teams. Additionally, the NFL had a program through which foreign players were assigned to teams' practice squads, called the International Practice Squad Program.
- Cantor 2008, p. 95.
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- Bill Williamson, International practice-squad players assigned, ESPN, June 12, 2008.
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