With training camp less than two weeks away, the Patriots' roster stands at 89 players, one shy of the maximum of 90 players permitted at this part of the offseason.
In previous seasons, it was not uncommon for teams to enter training camp with at least one roster spot available, particularly with the high number of minor injuries (i.e. muscle pulls or strains) that occur during training camp, with the extra spot used as injury insurance.
While the Patriots may choose to stand pat at 89 players entering training camp, a provision from the collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011 suggests that they could look to add a player before July 26, when camp begins.
The provision, which was not in effect last year because of the lockout, states that a player signed as a free agent that was not previously on another team during training camp will not be able to fully participate in practices until three days after he is signed.
The Patriots will begin training camp with a pair of non-padded practices as part of an acclimation period, and new free agents who were without a team before signing will have to adhere to a similar period upon joining their team.
As an example, if the Patriots were to decide to re-sign veteran defensive end Andre Carter during training camp, because he has not been on another roster during camp, he would have to wait three days prior to practicing.
Conversely, if the Patriots were to sign a player who was previously in training camp with say, the Seahawks, and had thus already been through the acclimation period, he would be able to practice immediately.
This means that should a team experience an injury at a certain position, finding a fill-in from the pool of available free agents may not be as expedient as it was in years past.
Given this “three-day acclimation rule,” it seems prudent for the Patriots, and every other team, to enter training camp with a fully stocked roster.