When it’s time for the 49ers to cut their 80-man roster to 53 by the Saturday deadline, there still will be jobs waiting for many of the players who initially receive bad news.
But some players might take some convincing to stick around.
Veteran safety Johnathan Cyprien is scheduled to earn $910,000 this season if he makes the regular-season roster. But this season, teams are allowed to have up to six players on their practice squads with unlimited NFL experience. A veteran such as Cyprien would make $204,000 for the season on the practice squad.
Cyprien said last week that he would not be interested in a spot on the practice squad. But coach Kyle Shanahan certainly will try to convince any skeptical veteran that the practice squad might be the best path to playing this season.
“I understand that some players won't want to do that, but we'll do our best to tell them why we think it's a good opportunity for them,” Shanahan said.
Last season, six of the 10 players who began the season on the 49ers’ practice squad ended up being called up to the regular-season roster and seeing action.
“I think one of the hard things with practice squad is the stigma of what those words are, practice squad,” Shanahan said. “Practice squad to me is that sometimes it's one injury away from playing.
“That's just one of the hard things with the NFL that people look at practice squad as just a developmental thing where you're just putting on scout team jerseys and it's like, I guess walk-ons in college, but it couldn't be any farther from the truth.”
As part of rules alterations due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, practice squads have been expanded to 16 players this season. Teams are allowed to activate up to two practice-squad players per game without placing them on waivers to get them back on the practice squad.
With COVID-19 protocols this year, a player is unable to come in from the outside and immediately step in the building and begin practicing. An outside is required to pass three days of tests before joining the team. Therefore, it will be imperative for the 49ers to have reserves at each position on the practice squad in case a last-minute replacement is needed.
"I love the fact that they'll let us have vets on it. I hope guys can understand that stigma of whatever that is isn't the case,” Shanahan said.
“I strongly believe it’s a great opportunity for people to be on our roster, if it's not Week 1. If you're a vet on it, it’s only a matter of time before you're going to be starting and playing for our team.”