Training camps across the NFL are just about a month away and the league is looking into different avenues to potentially go down to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this month word go out of the NFL discussing a shortened preseason from four games to two to give more "ramp-up" time for players after missing in-person offseason activities like minicamp. Now, there appears to be another tactic being discussed on the personnel side as Mike Garafolo and Judy Battista of the NFL Network report that there are internal talks about expanding practice squads.
The NFL was already set to expand practice squads from 10 to 12 players in 2020, but, under this currently discussed expansion, it could be stretched to as many as 16 players. The goal here is to give teams as much roster flexibility as possible in the event that one or multiple players test positive for the coronavirus and need to be sidelined for a substantial amount of time. By expanding the practice unit, teams will not only have players that are readily available but also have players who know the club's system better than another who may have to come off the street.
Garafolo and Battista note that the NFLPA would have to co-sign this change for it to become official. That doesn't appear to be a major hurdle, however, as it does create more jobs for the players.
This all comes to light in the aftermath of Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and several other players being diagnosed with the coronavirus, which has some coaches in the league reportedly pushing for the NFL to delay the start of the regular season. Commissioner Roger Goodell reacted to the news of Elliott and other players being diagnosed earlier this week on ESPN and was pretty candid saying "positive tests are going to happen" and the league needs to focus on prevention along with fast treatment and isolation to limit the risk of a spread.
NFLPA medical direction Thom Mayer noted on a call with agents this week that NFL does plan to test players three times per week. The NFL and NFLPA also sent a joint memo to teams earlier this offseason highlighting some guidelines to help teams prepare for the pandemic, including rearranging locker rooms to ensure social distancing.