The new CBA has changed the rules for practice-squad eligibility to permit each team to have two players on the practice squad with an unlimited number of accrued seasons. That number could be increasing.
Already bumped from 10 players to 12 for 2020, it’s widely expected that the number will be pushed even higher due to the pandemic. Packers CEO Mark Murphy recently explained that the larger practice squads could include more veteran players with unlimited years of service.
“We are absolutely considering increasing the practice squad this year to give teams more roster flexibility during the pandemic,” Murphy wrote in a monthly column for the team’s website. “These discussions are part of our negotiations with the NFLPA, but I do anticipate that the practice squad will be increased this year (it is a positive for the players and teams). We are also considering changing the eligibility rules for the practice squad, again to provide more flexibility, especially for teams to sign more veteran players to the practice squad.”
Teams will need to be ready and able to quickly replace players who test positive for the coronavirus. But talk of expanding the practice squad from 12 to 16 players may be insufficient; teams may need to have even more players ready to go at a moment’s notice.
It also could be wise to consider suspending or at least altering for one year the rules allowing a team to sign players from another team’s practice squad to its active roster. For this year only (and hopefully it won’t be necessary for next year), each team arguably should be expected to rely on its own universe of players, without being able to pilfer healthy players from another team’s practice squad to serve as a short-term replacement for a player who has tested positive for the virus.
As previously explained, the league also should consider having separate rosters of players who are kept in game shape, so that if a team has an outbreak, it won’t be relying on players who have been essentially pulled off the street and plugged into the roster.