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Updates to 2021 NFL roster management and blocking rules announced

Some tough decisions will have to be made weeks ahead of the 2021 NFL Season, thanks to a reversal of rules

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers OTA Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

When the NFL decided to allow teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to hold on to their 90-man roster deeper into the preseason before making cuts, it was a move celebrated by just about everyone.

It made for better preseason football because guys fighting for roster spots had more opportunities to prove themselves. It allowed teams the ability to protect their veterans without running their rookies and lesser groomed players ragged. And it opened the door to discovering talent who may have needed the third or fourth opportunity to really show what they have.

Now, at least for the 2021 season, those benefits will once again subside as the NFL announced teams will again make cuts in phases with the first batch coming on August 17th. This is when five of the 90 men will be released. This according to Tom Pelissero of NFL media.

After the initial five cuts, the Bucs will have to trim again down to 80 players on August 24th, and then final cuts will have to be made no later than August 31st. This is when the initial 53-man roster will be set and teams will have their practice squads fleshed out heading into Week 1 of the 2021 regular season.

Of course, we all know this won’t be the final version of the roster as it’ll shift and turn with every move, injury, and need that develops throughout the year.

On the surface, I don’t like it. Teams should be able to carry out the 90-man roster through camp and the preseason and make their decisions about a week out as they have been the past three seasons.

Really, it’s a question of what sparked the move? I don’t recall there being an issue with having 90 players.

However, cutting to 80 before the final preseason game and then getting down to 53 afterward isn’t exactly going to jeopardize anyone. We’re not talking about Tampa Bay being forced to play Tom Brady more than they need to because of it. And there will still be plenty of opportunities for guys 54-80 to prove themselves worthy of practice squad spots or even spots on other NFL rosters.

Something which will have a bigger impact on the actual season ahead was also announced on Wednesday as the league announced the adoption of changes to its rule prohibiting blocking below the waist.

According to the change, the rule now applies to all plays, specifying being outside the tackle box and tight end box as the areas of emphasis. The ‘tight end box’ is the new addition, and previous to this the rule applied on kicks and changes of possession.

The rule change identifies the tight end box as, “...an area that is between two yards outside the normal tackle positions and extends five yards on either side of the line of scrimmage.”

Now, any player on either side of the ball who initiates a block below the waist outside of the tight end box will subject his team to a loss of fifteen yards.