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NFL, NFLPA agree to extensions and modifications of pandemic roster rules

Some of the roster rules put into place for the coronavirus pandemic are one step closer to being permanent.

Cleveland Browns Training Camp Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

In the spring of 2020, the NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) agreed to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that included changes to how the Kansas City Chiefs (and the rest of the league’s teams) could operate their practice squads.

When the deal was signed, however, the world was in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic. So throughout the last two seasons, the league and NFLPA have agreed to temporary changes to those rules — along with ones pertaining to injured reserve — that helped teams manage the effects of the pandemic on their rosters.

Along the way, some of the temporary changes became popular among teams. (Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has frequently remarked that he liked the pandemic-related modifications to the rules). It seemed likely that those changes might become permanent once the crisis was over.

According to a memo obtained by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the league and the union have agreed to changes to these rules for the 2022 season, making them one step closer to becoming a lasting part of the NFL landscape.

A change to the injured reserve list

Players designated for return from the Reserve/Injured list — or those on the Reserve/NFI or Reserve/PUP lists — will now be eligible for return to a team’s active roster or practice squad after they have missed four games. That’s an increase over the three games that had been agreed upon during the pandemic.

Teams will be allowed to have as many as eight players return from the reserve lists each season. An individual player may be returned no more than twice, but each one of those returns will count against the limit of eight. During the pandemic, no limit was in place.

Practice squad numbers

As we reported as a likely development on Tuesday, practice squads will continue to have as many as 16 players. Under the 2020 agreement, practice-squad size had been set to increase from 10 to 12 in 2020 and from 12 to 14 in 2022. But during the pandemic, teams were allowed to have as many as 16 players on the taxi squad.

Before the 2020 agreement, practice-squad players had to fall within two limited definitions: (1) players with less than one accrued NFL season (six games on an active roster), or (2), players who have been on an active roster for fewer than nine regular-season games during their only accrued season(s).

But in the 2020 CBA, two less-limited definitions were added: (3) as many as four players who had earned no more than two accrued seasons with any number of games — and (4) up to two players with any number of accrued seasons. Beginning in 2022, up to four players who met the fourth definition would have been allowed.

Under the new agreement for 2022, teams will be allowed up to 10 players who fall within the third definition and six players who fall under the fourth definition — as long as the total in both groups is less than 10.

Finally, the practice-squad elevation procedure that was added to the 2020 CBA has been extended. In the original agreement, a player could be elevated to an active roster (a process in which the player is made active for a single game and then automatically returned to the practice squad without having to pass through waivers) no more than twice in a given season or postseason.

Under the new agreement for 2022, the limit is raised to three games — and there is no limit on postseason elevations.