The National Football League (NFL) declared a forthcoming expansion in its practice squad today, set to be rolled out across all 32 clubs by 2024. This move paves the way for an additional international player on each squad, amplifying opportunities for adept athletes globally to join American football’s ranks.
This innovative stride builds on the NFL’s International Player Pathway (IPP) programme. Commencing in 2017, the IPP has assigned international players to select divisions annually. This year, the AFC West and NFC North have had the privilege of taking eight players from this scheme on board.
Since the IPP’s launch, 37 global players have linked up with NFL teams, with 19 currently serving in various roles. Notable mentions include Jordan Mailata from Australia, who plays for the Philadelphia Eagles, and Efe Obada, Jakob Johnson, Sammis Reyes, and David Bada, all playing under the Washington Commanders’ banner.
As part of this move, the practice squad size will burgeon to 17 players, provided one of them is a certified international player. The qualifying criteria entails the player’s primary residence and citizenship outside of the US and Canada, coupled with a limited two-year US high school experience. Additionally, the player must meet all NFL eligibility criteria and should have been a contender in a preceding NFL Draft.
Teams can either lean on the IPP for scouting or independently unearth global talent.
NFL’s Executive Vice President Peter O’Reilly expressed optimism for the move, foreseeing a bolstered pathway for top-tier international athletes, which would simultaneously strengthen the NFL’s global fanbase.
Joel Glazer, Chair of the NFL International Committee, emphasised the profound impact this initiative can have on the global talent pool and its augmentation in the NFL.
Enhancing this, Troy Vincent, NFL Executive Vice President, spotlighted the role of global talent in fostering the game’s growth, thereby fostering inclusivity.
The fresh regulations allow clubs to promote their international practice squad player to the active roster thrice a season, offering more flexibility and fortifying chances for international athletes to shine in the NFL.
Expressing gratitude, Philadelphia Eagles’ Jordan Mailata acclaimed the IPP’s transformative power. Mailata, an IPP graduate from Australia, believes such enhancements can elevate the sport’s diversity and competition.
This initiative underscores the NFL’s commitment to catalyse football’s growth worldwide. It aligns with other strategic efforts like promoting NFL Flag football in conjunction with the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) and the NFL Academy programme.