LA Rams News: NFL discussions to expand practice squad to 16 is the right call
The LA Rams are facing uncharted territory in 2020. Well, the entire NFL is advancing into unchartered territory. Not since the Flu pandemic of 1918-1920 has the United States been under siege by the risk of a highly contagious and dangerous disease. While the NFL has mandated new rules and restrictions in place to prevent spreading COVID-19 per federal, state, municipality, and local guidelines, the league has yet to turn to how to address the increased risks once the season begins.
So the risks of injury in the 2019 season are now eclipsed by the fear and anxiety of NFL players testing positive for COVID-19 during the 2020 NFL season. And what happens if that occurs? The answer is that the NFL simply has no mechanism in place to address the possibility. But that could soon change, as discussions are now underway to increase the practice squad roster.
What is the right number?
Reports out now indicate that the NFL is discussing expanding the practice squad to 16. Even as the consensus agrees that is the right direction, is there any way to establish what the right number of players should be?
I have no way of calling the right number either way. But more importantly, I’m not sure that the NFL, or anyone for that matter, does either. What I do know is that the LA Rams 2019 season was seriously impacted by 20 player injuries over the course of the season. The team had to retool the offensive line and defensive backfield in mid-season and still managed to win nine games.
COVID-19 impact could be even worse
The NFL defense against an outbreak of the Coronavirus is to ensure player safety by ensuring social distancing, protective face masks, and self-quarantining whenever possible. That is the best scientifically proven methods to avoid contracting the disease. Furthermore, that is the best that can be implemented as NFL teams enter the 2020 NFL season. The only other options for the NFL are COVID-19 testing intervals, and then a medically sound process to quarantine infected players who test positive with a plan to return them to play after they no longer test positive for the disease.
But as soon as games are played, social distancing and self quarantining strategies are compromised. And despite efforts to test players regularly, some contract the disease and in turn infect others. How many players might contract the disease after a game of exposure? If the initially infected player is an active player on the opposing defense, that one player could unknowingly wipe out an entire team’s offensive skill players after one game. That’s a huge risk for NFL teams entering this 2020 season. Is 16 practice squad players enough to mitigate that risk? I am not sure. In fact, The NFL could implement a 35 player practice squad for 2020 and that may not be enough for some NFL teams.
But it would prevent teams from being forced to cut players whose chances of making an NFL roster have been severely hampered by the unique and unchartered territory the NFL advances into this year.