COVID-related roster rules to stay in place for 2021, beyond?

Leagues and competitions around the world had to alter rules and create health and safety protocols to resume play amid the COVID-19 pandemic last year to both try to keep everyone as safe as possible and to also ensure games and matches could occur if athletes either tested positive for or were exposed to the coronavirus. 

Some of those changes may become permanent moving forward. 

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (h/t Kevin Patra) reports “all signs point” to the NFL and NFL Players Association keeping multiple roster rules and changes from the 2020 season held at a time when COVID-19 vaccine shots weren’t available to all players and staff members. Specifically, teams would be permitted to have an unlimited number of players return from injured reserve during a campaign. Additionally, players who land on IR will only have to miss a minimum of three weeks instead of eight. 

Outside of IR regulations, practice squads expanded to 16 players last season and could stay that way this year and beyond. 

Pelissero pointed out that the NFL and NFLPA are still negotiating on protocols for the rest of the football year that runs through Super Bowl LVI next February and may not announce finalized rules until closer to training camp. While fans likely don’t care all that much about the sizes of practice squads, they’d likely prefer for IR stays to remain at three-week minimums to allow for stars and fantasy football starters to return to active lineups quicker than before the 2020 season. 

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