I wrote earlier today about the NFL adopting a new temporary reserve list, the reserve/Covid-19 list, which is already active. The list allows teams to immediately transfer players from the 53-man roster (or in the case of the offseason, the 80- to 90-man roster—to a separate category, which allows them to add somebody else to the roster, in the event that they test positive for Covid-19 or have been exposed to somebody who has tested positive.
Already, five teams have placed a total of six players on the list, after it was reported late last week that 12 rookies had tested positive after reporting to team facilities for their start of training camp. Veterans begin reporting for the majority of the league tomorrow, so we will probably see a wave of more players being added.
We are still in July, of course. This will not affect the 53-man roster for a while. When it does, however, there is another important thing to note about how the process works for the reserve/Covid-19 list, and how it is distinguished from other roster transactions.
Crucially, players who are promoted from the practice squad to take the place of a player who is moved to the reserve/Covid-19 list will not be subject to waivers in the event that they are waived after the first player is reactivated from reserve.
Under normal conditions, any player with fewer than four accrued seasons prior to the trade deadline (and every player after the trade deadline) is not simply released but put on the ‘waiver wire’, which is a process by which every other team has the opportunity to put in a waiver claim tot obtain that player’s rights, thereby inheriting their contract as well.
The Pittsburgh Steelers lost two players from the waiver wire process last season, though that includes one rookie who had been on the 53-man roster all along. That would be college free agent lineman Fred Johnson, who was waived to make room for another running back due to injury. The Cincinnati Bengals claimed him off waivers.
Later in the season, center Patrick Morris was promoted from the practice squad to serve as the backup when Maurkice Pouncey was suspended. After Pouncey was reactivated, Morris was waived, and he was claimed off waivers.
Even though a relatively low number of waiver-eligible players end up getting claimed, it still happens every year. At least for the 2020 season, when players are promoted due to Covid-19, others teams will not be permitted to try to obtain them via waivers.
What is not clear, however, is whether or not teams will still be permitted to attempt to sign players from other teams’ practice squads. The Steelers did this with three players last season, which is very rare for the, ultimately adding Deon Cain, Kerrith Whyte, and Tuzar Skipper this way, all three of whom remain on the 90-man roster.