2020 Offseason Questions: Will NFL Eliminate Waivers For Extra Practice Squad Players If Called Up Due To Covid-19?

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now into the offseason, following a year in which they had high hopes for Super Bowl success, but ultimately fell short of even reaching the postseason at 8-8. It was a tumultuous season, both on the field and within the roster, and the months to follow figure to have some drama as well, especially in light of the team’s failure to improve upon the year before.

The team made some bold moves over the course of the past year, and some areas of the roster look quite a bit different than they did a year ago, or even at the start of the regular season. Whether due to injuries or otherwise, a lot has transpired, and we’re left to wonder how much more will change prior to September.

How will Ben Roethlisberger’s rehab progress as he winds toward recovery from an elbow injury that cost him almost the entire season? What about some of the key young players, some of whom have already impressed, others still needing quite a bit of growth? Will there be changes to the coaching staff? The front office? Who will they not retain in free agency, and whom might they bring in?

These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.

Question: Assuming the practice squad is expanded, will the league also agree to eliminate the waiver system for practice squad players temporarily promoted to the 53-man roster due to Covid-19?

According to recent reports, the NFL is exploring its options in possibly expanding the practice squad to 16 players, up from 12 as per the new CBA, in response to preparations for dealing with the coronavirus during the season.

The league has made it very clear that they understand there will be positive tests of players during the season. A handful of players, even in the offseason, have already been reported as testing positive, and there are surely even more that we haven’t heard about because there’s no requirement that it be reported.

As part of the new CBA, teams are now also allowed to promote two practice squad players to the gameday roster without having to release a player on the 53 in order to do so; however, they only get two exceptions, if they keep promoting the player, before he has to go through waivers.

And we’ve seen last year that players can get claimed. Patrick Morris was a practice squad player who was claimed last year after he was released again. Al-Hajj Shabbazz is another example from a few years ago.

Personally, I doubt this is something the league is really considering doing. It does negatively impede player mobility, though in technicality any player who is waived and unclaimed can do whatever they want at that point. They’re not obligated to re-sign with the practice squad, and if another team wants to sign them, they can.

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