The one thing NFL teams really can’t have enough of is players. They’re what make the game go, and because the game happens to be brutal and unpredictable in a way that shortens careers and derails seasons, having capable reserves ends up mattering an awful lot.
The NFL hasn’t always been great about recognizing that, to put it mildly. They shoot players up with Toradol and send them back out there, and too many players play hurt because they fear for their jobs and their futures. That’s not exactly going to change by expanding rosters—players are always looking over their shoulders—but those players who would slide off rosters in late August and early September and the teams that wish they could keep them might like this latest report from Mike Garafolo.
NFL practice squads were to expand from 10 to 12 players in 2020. Now, there’s internal talk about expanding to as many as 16 for greater roster flexibility for positive Covid tests, sources tell me and @judybattista. NFLPA would have to co-sign but that’s more jobs for players.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) June 18, 2020
A larger practice squad means more opportunity, period. Four more spots—and there were already two more spots—means well over 100 jobs for players who didn’t have them before. The practice squad is not exactly huge money or secure employment, but it’s a foot in the door, and one I hope will lead to fruitful opportunities for many more players. I expect it to be a relative no-brainer for the NFLPA in light of that.
For teams, it’ll be a blessing in an uncertain year. If the NFL gets to play this season, they will inevitably lose players not just to injury but also to COVID-19, for time spans that could stretch a couple of weeks or could be much longer, if those players are not fortunate enough to suffer mild symptoms and recover quickly. That’s a big occupational hazard, one I don’t think anyone has fully grasped yet, but it also demands that teams have options ready when it happens. That’s where expanded practice squad spots will make a big difference, though further expanded rosters would also help.
We’ll see what comes of this, but it seems like a win-win situation. Let’s hope it gets done.