The 2020 NFL season will be bizarre and unusual in a number of ways. Right now, we don’t even know in how many ways that will be. One that seems very likely at this point is plans by the league to provide insulation for teams against experiencing an outbreak or quarantine situation related to Covid-19.
We have previously heard a proposal to expand the practice squad from 12 to 16 players. Albert Breer among others reported yesterday that league VP Jeff Pash said they are looking into the possibility of creating a Covid-19 reserve list, presumably meaning something similar to a temporary PUP list that, I would imagine, provides greater flexibility.
NFL’s Jeff Pash says the league’s competition committee and CEC are discussing, and discussing with the NFLPA, the possibility of special COVID-19 reserve lists for the fall.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) June 25, 2020
Any player who tests positive for the coronavirus or is exposed to somebody who has tested positive will have to undergo a quarantine period. If they are positive themselves, of course, then they will not be allowed to return to practice or to play until they are cleared of the virus. Those who are exposed will have to show that they haven’t contracted the virus.
This has the potential to create huge burdens on teams, around half of which have already experienced positive cases among their players in spite of the fact that we are in the offseason and no official team practices have been conducted since the end of last season.
Covid-19 has been the defining story of 2020, or at least had been until the end of May, since which time it has shared the spotlight with the mounting racial justice movement, both of which will color the season in some way or another.
Earlier this week, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin confirmed that his team has had two players who previously tested positive for the coronavirus, though he said that their cases came months ago and both have been cleared and healthy for some time.
To date, there have been no known cases of an NFL player contracting a case that was serious enough to result in their being hospitalized. For obvious reasons, the average NFL player stands a better chance of having a good prognosis than the average person, but it remains a risk for everybody—and everybody around them.
For my part, I think it would be a great and logical idea for the league to adopt a special reserve list related to the coronavirus, and it’s really something that could remain in place for the long-term future, and any similar instance that could arise—even Sam Darnold’s case of mono last year.
But having a reserve list, and having a reserve of players to take their roster spots, are two different matters entirely. That’s another thing that the league has to figure out, and in an extreme situation, four extra practice squad spots may not cover it.