In a move that was widely anticipated and, quite frankly, predictable, the NFL adopted a new reserve list for the 2020 season tied directly to Covid-19 yesterday, which will make it extremely easy for teams to navigate their roster should the situation arise that they must quarantine players who test positive for the virus or have been exposed to those who have tested positive.
Officially distinguished as the reserve/Covid-19 list, six players from five different teams were immediately placed on it after it was created, including two members of the Cleveland Browns; running back Dontrell Hilliard and safety Jovante Moffatt. From the Browns’ website comes a description of the list:
This new reserve list category was created for a player who either tests positive for COVID-19 or who has been quarantined after having been in close contact with an infected person or persons. If a player falls into either of these categories, their club is required to immediately place the player on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Per agreed upon NFL-NFLPA policy, clubs are not permitted to comment on player’s medical status other than referring to roster status. Clubs may not disclose whether player is in quarantine or is positive for COVID-19.
As a crucial part of the creation of this list, it also allows teams to easily promote players from the practice squad to the 53-man roster, at any point up to 90 minutes before the kickoff of their next game—which is the point at which they must turn in their inactive list for the game. An important distinction from the reserve/injured list is that there is no minimum number of weeks a player must be on the list to be eligible to be reactivated.
Over the weekend, it was reported that 12 rookies had tested positive for Covid-19—rookies were eligible to report for Covid-19 testing at the start of training camp earlier than veteran players. Prior to this, the NFLPA had listed that there were 59 previously known cases of players testing positive, which was without any formal league testing.
The NFL anticipates that they will have a fairly high number of positive tests once all players begin reporting to training camp tomorrow. One would imagine that at least several dozens new positives will be revealed if 12 had been reported from just rookies showing up.
The real question, though, is whether a team will actually have the requisite personnel to address a legitimate outbreak on their roster. While the practice squad has been temporarily expanded from 12 to 16 players, teams still will not have an abundance of players at any given position.
If a single meeting room, of say the wide receivers, takes a hit, and you have to put five wide receivers in quarantine—and this could include wide receivers on the practice squad—you’re inevitably going to have to sign some players off the street just to play through a game.