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Everything you need to know about NFL practice squads

Not everyone can sit on the practice squad.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

September is here, and that means some tough decisions are looming at NFL training camps across the country. Teams were mandated to trim their roster to 75 players by the first of the month. Just four days later on Sept. 5, teams must submit their final 53-man rosters.

This will be the end of the line for many in NFL training camps, but a select few will have the opportunity to extend their careers with roster spots that don't count toward a team's group of 53 players. As teams are faced with the final roster, they have to consider which young players they want to invest time in and work to build a 10-man practice squad.

NFL teams used to be allowed only eight players on the practice squad, but the league agreed to allow two more practice squads per team in 2014, upping the groups to 10 players for each team.

While players who are listed on the practice squad still work out and practice with the team, they don't get to play in games or enjoy the financial benefits players on the final roster do. For some, though, this is a good first step toward realizing their NFL dream.

Who's eligible for the practice squad?

Not all players are eligible for a team's practice squad. Eligibility is limited to players who were on an active roster for fewer than six games, or were on the 45-man active gameday roster for fewer than nine games. Plenty of practice squad spots will go to rookies who are still adjusting to the speed and skill of the NFL, but players with limited gameday experience or previous time on the practice squad to start their career are usually eligible, too.

A player is allowed on the practice squad for up to two years, with one year counting as six weeks in a season. A third year on the practice squad is only allowed if the team keeps 53 players on the active-inactive list at all times.

How much money do practice squad players make?

Practice squad players earn paychecks on a weekly basis. They may not be getting the same huge paychecks as players on the 53-man roster, but they aren't exactly earning minimum wage, either.

For the 2015 season, practice squad players can make no less than $6,600 per week. While the minimum salary for a rookie in 2015 is $435,000, a full season on the practice squad would earn a player more than $100,000 for the year. Alternatively, without being contractually obligated, players are released with no financial penalty.

Can practice squad players change teams?

A practice squad player can sign to another team's active roster at any point, but can't leave for another practice squad unless they're released.

The only time practice squad players can't be signed to an active roster is when a team's next opponent is trying to get information from them. Practice squad players are prohibited from signing with the next opposing team on the schedule less than five days before the game, or nine days during a bye week. If a practice squad player is signed to an active roster, they will receive a minimum of three paychecks, even if they're released earlier.

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While players who begin on the practice squad rarely make an impact on their teams that season, there are success stories throughout the NFL of players who began their career as an afterthought.

Among the practice squad alumni in the NFL are Tony Romo, Arian Foster, Jason Peters and James Harrison, four players who have 20 Pro Bowl nods between them.