How practice squad change affects Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The NFL announced a few changes to practice squads in 2014 and 2015, increasing the maximum number of players from eight to 10, and also expanding eligibility for players who have earned no more than two accrued seasons of free agency credit.

Prior to the change, a player who earned one or more accrued seasons would not be eligible for the practice squad unless the player spent fewer than nine games on a club's 46-man game-day roster in each of his accrued seasons.

From a Patriots perspective, that opens the possibility that some players who previously wouldn't be eligible for the practice squad and might be perceived to be on the roster bubble -- such as defensive linemen Jerel Worthy and Joe Vellano -- could still stick with the team if there isn't a spot for them on the 53-man roster.

This rule should help prolong some careers of players, and help avoid situations like what unfolded with Stoughton (Mass.) High graduate Ryan LaCasse in 2007.

LaCasse, who played at Syracuse, appeared in 12 games as a rookie with the Colts in 2006. He was a fringe roster player contributing mostly on special teams, and when he didn't make the roster in 2007, he wasn't eligible for the practice squad because he had played in 12 games in '06. LaCasse, a defensive end, didn't play another regular-season game in the NFL.

Under the new rules, a player like LaCasse would be eligible for the practice squad once again, giving him more time to develop.