COVID-19 Offseason, Roster Changes To Become Permanent?

Needless to say, the COVID-19 pandemic changed things radically in the NFL. While everyone is hopeful that many things will get back to normal for the 2021 season, like fans in the stands of course, it appears that some of the changes are here to stay.

In an interesting article earlier this week, Lindsay Jones of The Athletic (subscription required) took a look at what we can expect moving forward in terms of offseasons and roster rules. One of the biggest changes in 2020 were practice squad rules, with those units being increased from 10 to 16 players, and vested veterans being allowed to be on them. The other biggest change was the altering of injured reserve rules, which reduced the amount of games a player needed to miss on IR from six to three, and eliminated the cap of two players being allowed to return.

Those matters will be discussed at offseason competition committee meetings, and the two issues mentioned above are both expected to “receive overwhelmingly positive reviews from coaches and general managers,” a source told Jones. It makes a ton of sense, and at this point it would be surprising if the NFL went back to pre-2020 procedures for practice squads and IR.

Jones also notes that 2020 changes like the “reduction of the number of people allowed in the team’s bench area during games and road-game travel protocols” could become permanent as well. As for the offseason, there was a dramatic reduction in training camp practice time this past year, which could be the new norm.

Jones writes that players union head J.C. Tretter is planning on pounding the table for reduced OTAs and minicamps to stay. While changes to the offseason program would need to be collectively bargained, a source told her that there “appears to be enough support from both sides for such a change to be possible.”

Tretter said he’s heard from players who feel like they finished the season in better physical and mental shape because of the limited practice time. “Change is always scary, but we’ve come out on the other side in a much better position. And now, it’s the point of getting down with the league, talking to them about which of these changes we should move forward, because they are better for everybody involved,” the Browns’ center said.

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8 comments on “COVID-19 Offseason, Roster Changes To Become Permanent?

  1. DarkSide830

    what is actually the value of limiting the number of players on the bench and “travel protocols” in a post-pandemic situation

    • ruckus727

      Not players. People. Meaning all those God knows who people standing around with various credentials hanging around their necks. Some are press. Some are assistants. Some are assistants to assistants. There were literally hundreds of people standing on the sidelines from end zone to end zone pre-2020.

  2. mrshyguy99

    I like the idea of vets on the practice squad. Why didn’t they do that sooner . It a great way for vets to make a team not just young players

    • crosseyedlemon

      The only vets that have an interest in being on a PS are the ones with no job prospects outside of football. It’s not a good idea at all.

      • Ak185

        A lot of veterans used the PS to get a head on a new playbook and get up to speed with a team before being called up. Many others used to ease back into shape after an injury or a COVID related absence. There are plenty of reasons to allow veterans on PS rotations in the NFL.

  3. Ak185

    Tretter can claim that players feel better with fewer practices, but the number of injuries this year highly suggests otherwise. Even if we for some reason doubt that the number of injuries this past year was related to a lack of practice or preseason work, we seriously cannot doubt that there was a sheer lack of precision in the first quarter of the season. The beginning of the NFL year is always full of mistakes, granted, but this year the players looked even more out of sync than before. The number of missed tackles and blocking assignments in particular should directly be attributed to a lack of reps.

    I just can not for the life of me understand why the NFL union is just so obsessed with getting rid of practice every year. If anything, now is a time for more practice, with the unevenness of the college season. I mean, it protects vets by robbing young players of valuable learning time I suppose, which in turn protects veteran roster spots, but the union is supposed to look out for those young guys too. I suspect that many of them would want more practice. You’d think that arguing for better long term health or financial benefits or pensions or injury guarantees or what not would be higher on the union’s list than reducing practices every single year.

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