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How Many Players Are There In An American Football Team?

How many players are there in a football team

NFL teams are permitted to have a maximum of 53 total players on the active roster. In college, teams can reach almost 100 players. Each NFL team is also allowed to carry 16 practice squad players who, as the name may suggest, do not play in games, but can participate in practices. These practice squad players can be added to their NFL team’s roster or signed to other teams’ active roster at any time, as long as there's room on the standard 53-man roster. However, only 48 of them dress for the game, which means 48 players are ready to go in when needed.

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On The Field

football positions

During a game, there are fewer players on the field than the full roster size. Only 11 players are on the field for a team at once. Each of the 11 positions on the field also require backups, with a few bench players serving as backups in multiple positions for depth at more important positions, such as wide receiver or running back.

Inactive Players

Six players are permitted to be on the inactive list. The inactive players list is the area between active players and the injured reserve list. It is a list of injured players that aren’t  injured extremely enough to be put on the injured reserve list. The inactive players list ensures that each team has an equal balance of healthy and active players so there is no unfair advantage.

NFL teams also have 16 practice squad players. These players are not eligible to play in games; however, they are allowed to participate in practices. That being said, practice squad players are eligible to be signed to another team’s active roster at any time. This means practice squad players will often bounce between teams over the course of an NFL season.

Preseason Roster

During the preseason, NFL teams are allowed to carry almost double the number of players. In total, NFL teams are allowed to have up to 90 players on their preseason roster. This system is similar to other American pro sports leagues, such as baseball, and is done with the intention of giving “fringe players” who may otherwise not have an opportunity to garner the attention of teams a shot to gain some notoriety in the league. Expanded preseason rosters also allow NFL teams to see more eligible players in action and assess what players most deserve a spot on their regular season roster, making this system a win-win for players and organizations.

Pre-Covid Rules

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, roster rules in the NFL were a bit different. The most substantial rule to take note of is that, back in 2019, NFL teams were only permitted to carry 10 practice squad players. The expansion of practice squad limits to 16 players was done with the intention of having more players available in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak in the locker room. Only time will tell if these rules remain in place in the long term.

Additionally, NFL teams were previously only allowed to have up to 46 players dress and be eligible to play on game day. Today, the maximum is 48. This increase was also done with the intention of combating potential COVID-19 outbreaks within the league. NFL teams are now also permitted to bring an unlimited number of players back from the injured reserve roster to the active roster. This transaction was previously limited to only three players per team per season, before the COVID-19 guidelines were put into place for the 2020 season.

FAQ

When must NFL rosters be finalized?

NFL rosters must be finalized one calendar week before each team’s first regular season game. By the time each team’s opening game comes around, each NFL team will have cut close to 40 players in order to get their roster down to the league-mandated 53-player total. This does not happen all at once, with many players cut early on in the preseason, leading up to final decisions being made on closely contested positional battles just before the regular season kicks off. 

How many quarterbacks are on an NFL roster?

While NFL teams are permitted to have any amount of quarterbacks on their active roster, most teams will have two or three quarterbacks for each game. In recent years, many teams have only dressed two quarterbacks for games in order to use the extra roster spot for a wide receiver or running back that could serve as an emergency quarterback if absolutely necessary.

How many players are there in an NFL fantasy roster?

In a standard NFL fantasy football league, teams are limited to a 16-man roster. This roster is composed of nine starters and seven bench players. Fantasy football league managers have the freedom to shift roster sizes and position limits, but the majority of leagues use a 16-man roster. Most fantasy football leagues will also have a single injured reserve (IR) spot, as this became standard after the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the number of IR spots can vary by league rules, generally between zero and four.

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