On Thursday, July 25, 90 players will report to training camp for the Minnesota Vikings in Mankato, Minnesota.
On the line will be 53 roster spots, along with eight slots on Minnesota's practice squad. While the goal of every player at training camp is to make the final roster, the reality for some is that the goal is to make enough of an impression at camp to be signed to the practice squad.
NFL practice squads are for players who haven't accrued a season of free agency credit, or who were on the 46-player Active List for less than nine regular season games during each of any accrued seasons. No player can serve on a practice squad for more than three seasons.
In simpler terms, the practice squad is used by NFL teams to stash players of promise, players who are good practice guys and can move seamlessly onto the active roster if and when injuries occur.
Teams also find ways around keeping just eight players. Last year, the Vikings cut and re-signed defensive end Ernest Owusu and offensive lineman Tyler Holmes all season long, essentially keeping them both on the practice squad.
In effect, the practice squad is where dreams go to be put on hold. You live the day-to-day life of an NFL player, you just get paid a lot less (in 2012, practice squad players made $5,700 a week) and they're not active for games.
The Vikings, like all NFL teams, will shuffle players on and off of the practice squad all year long, depending on injuries and depth chart needs.
With less than a month to go until training camp opens, we take a look at some good candidates to end up on the Vikings 2013 practice squad.