SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- It’s officially week one of the NFL season and the New England Patriots are gearing up to take on the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
The team made their final roster cuts on Saturday, but a new rule gives the team more flexibility when it comes to how many players it can have.
Earlier this year, the Players Association and the NFL amended a rule allowing a team to have up to two extra players on the field on game day, something head coach Bill Belichick said played a factor in Saturday’s roster cut decisions.
The Patriots made their 53-man roster cuts, and the team is now preparing for their season opener against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
With the 53-man team, the NFL is set to expand the number of players a team can have on its practice squad. This new change allows two extra players to suit up come game day, giving coaches more flexibility should a player catch COVID-19, something Belichick says played a big role in their roster decision making.
“It was a factor for us, and I think it was a factor for most teams in the league,” he said. “It looks like to me that there will be players that will play in the game that are on the practice squad that will be elevated to a 54th and 55th-man position.”
In a virtual press conference Monday, Belichick said he thinks many teams will use these extra spots to utilize experienced players
“I saw a lot of teams that looked to me like that’s what they were doing and the flexibility to put veteran players on the practice squad gives teams a lot more flexibility than what they had in the past so we anticipated that,” he said.
He said these extra slots give teams the chance to develop young players but it also poses challenges when it comes to adding experienced free agents.
“That created the opportunity for teams to keep more of their younger players in some kind of protective role,” he said, “It’s just hard to create space to claim a player when you’re trying to protect your players at the same time.”
Belichick said these changes are just one of many the team has been planning for in the off season.