With recent reports of several NFL players testing positive for COVID-19, the league now faces the very real possibility of an outbreak during the season. The effects of this virus could leave a team extremely shorthanded, especially if one position is hit hard by the coronavirus.
While expanding the 53-man roster remains somewhat unlikely due to the salary cap limitations, the NFL is reportedly considering adding a few practice squad spots to help combat a potential breakout.
“Now, there’s internal talk about expanding to as many as 16 for greater roster flexibility for positive Covid tests,” NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo tweeted on Wednesday night.
The NFL was already planning to expand the practice squad from 10 to 12 players this year after the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, and the squad will expand to 14 players by 2022.
Earlier in the week, Detroit Lions coordinators were asked if the team has started making contingency plans for a potential breakout in the locker room. Both admitted there was really no way to know how to prepare at this point.
“I don’t think there’s any way to know how this would hit your team, who it would hit,” Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. “There’s not an unlimited roster. There’s not unlimited places where you can stow people. You’re going to have your guys that you have, and if guys start getting sick... I don’t know. I don’t even know how to even answer it, because what are you going to do? If you lose that many guys, I don’t know if I have an answer.”
“If it does (happen) and we end up in that situation, then we’re going to have to—just like everybody else on this planet is doing—deal with it in necessary ways, and hopefully we can make it through that,” defensive coordinator Cory Undlin said.
The NFL’s plan would certainly help in a small way, but only for a minimal outbreak. At this point, it seems like the league is simply hoping they won’t have to resort to more drastic measures. They are focusing primarily on prevention right now, as NFL team facilities continue to prepare for player to arrive in late July.