As we’ve written recently, the NFL is hurtling toward the regular season without fully fleshed-out plans for the season ahead. COVID-19 is making that planning difficult, if not impossible, but it’s still worrisome that the league has had months and has finalized very little.
That said, there are good ideas being kicked around by both the NFL and the NFLPA, ones that may well make the season a little more feasible. One I particularly like is a loosening of restrictions around injured reserve and non-football injury lists, one that would allow an unlimited number of players to come back and drastically reduce the number of games they need to sit out.
One idea endorsed by the NFL competition committee to help teams cope with positive COVID-19 tests in 2020: Allow unlimited players to return from injured reserve and non-football injury lists, after just 3 games instead of 8. It’s been discussed as NFL and NFLPA talks continue.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 17, 2020
Realistically, this is going to be necessary. The way NFL players come in close contact throughout games is going to lead to the spread of COVID-19 whether the league wants it to or not, which is going to lead to plenty of quarantined players who will need 2-3 weeks to get completely healthy and not spread it further. Allowing dozens of players to return from short-term stints is the only way the league is going to have enough players at a given time to actually play games, and 2-3 weeks is probably the appropriate length of time for most players to be out.
We’ll hope this one goes into circulation for at least 2020, and that it perhaps leads to a re-imagining of injured reserve going forward that allows more players to return more quickly. At the end of the day, the league needs to consider any proposal that makes a season actually work, and this at least feels like one.