Teams will again have 16-man practice squads, with maximum COVID flexibility
The personnel rules for the 2021 season likely will be identical to 2020.
The relaxed injured reserve rules adopted for 2020 will be utilized in 2021, in order to ensure maximum flexibility in an age of lingering COVID concerns. Also, according to the NFL, teams will be permitted to have up to 16 players on the practice squad.
In addition to the rule allowing two members of the practice squad to be elevated each week to the 53-man roster (making it a 55-man group from which the 46-man game-day roster can be selected), practice squad players can be freely elevated as replacements for players who land on the COVID-19 reserve list.
Like last year, players from the practice-squad can be promoted up to 90 minutes before kickoff to replace players who, for example, test positive on the morning of a game.
The goal is to ensure that there will be enough players to play on any/every given Sunday (and Monday and Thursday and Saturday and any other day). With 69 total players on the broader team at any given time, that should be enough to ensure that enough will be able to suit up and play.
It’s unknown whether and to what extent the league would require a team with fewer than 46 available players to go forward. Hopefully, it won’t come to that. If it does, the league likely will err on the side of expecting the team’s available players to suit up and go.
What’s the minimum number of healthy players that the league will require a team to use? Good question. Whether it’s 22 or 11 or some other number, hopefully we’ll never have to find out. Hopefully, having up to 69 at any given time will translate to enough players on game days.