Clarifying the 2020 injured reserve/COVID-19 rules

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Our recent item regarding expanded use of injured reserve with the ability to return was partially correct, and partially not. Now that the full document containing all details of the league’s offer to the NFL Players Association has been obtained by PFT, we can spell out exactly how injuries and COVID-19 diagnoses would be handled in 2020.

The procedures previously explained actually would apply to injured reserve generally. Every team would have the ability to return an unlimited number of players to the active roster following placement on injured reserve or the non-football injury/illness list.

The 2020-only rules, which become effective after 4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, September 6, will allow the team to remove any player with a football or non-football injury from the roster for three weeks. After three weeks, the player will be eligible to return to practice. Once he returns to practice, the team will have 21 days to place him back on the active roster.

This applies to all injuries, football or non-football. The unprecedented flexibility to park players on IR/NFI and to bring them back after only three games comes from a broader desire to ensure that the maximum number of players are available to play this season, in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.

As to players who test positive for COVID-19, even more flexibility will apply. A player with a confirmed diagnosis will be placed on the Exempt/Commissioner Permission List. Once the player is medically cleared, the team will be eligible for a roster exemption. A player who is on the Exempt/Commissioner Permission List for less than four weeks will get a one-week roster exemption. If the player is one the list for four weeks or more, it becomes a two-week exemption.

In other words, players who test positive for COVID-19 won’t be required to miss at least three weeks. They’ll be placed not on IR or NFI but the Commissioner Exempt list, a designation that has become known in recent years for the placement of players facing off-field allegations of misconduct. There will be no minimum or maximum stay on the Commissioner Exempt list.

Placement on the Commissioner Exempt list always entails full payment. Thus, it’s now abundantly clear that players who test positive will not face the loss of compensation — even if they caught the virus away from the workplace.