The Chicago Bears practice squad traditionally never gets much mainstream attention. That is not a surprise. The entire concept of it was meant for teams to maintain limited control of a certain number of younger players that they wouldn’t have to pay main roster money. It was an area typically meant for late round picks and undrafted free agents.
As the old song says though, the times they are a’changing. The ever-present COVID-19 is forcing the NFL to adapt like never before. This virus threatens the league operation in so many ways. The most prevalent being the danger of knocking key players out for weeks at a time. Players that might not be replaceable. One shudders at the idea of having to fill those gaps with undrafted guys or nothing but scout team projects.
According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, it seems the league is taking steps to help with that. Namely in two ways. The practice squads will be expanded to include more players, and will also allow teams to add more experienced veterans to them.
“The new CBA has changed the rules for practice-squad eligibility to permit each team to have two players on the practice squad with an unlimited number of accrued seasons. That number could be increasing.
Already bumped from 10 players to 12 for 2020, it’s widely expected that the number will be pushed even higher due to the pandemic…
…Teams will need to be ready and able to quickly replace players who test positive for the coronavirus. But talk of expanding the practice squad from 12 to 16 players may be insufficient; teams may need to have even more players ready to go at a moment’s notice.”
Chicago Bears practice squad could look pretty unique
So the Bears could have some real flexibility in this regard. For example, say they only wish to carry four safeties on the roster. The problem is they like DeAndre Houston-Carson. Normally he wouldn’t be allowed on the practice squad due to being in the league too long. However, under this new rule the Bears would be able to retain him. This way they’ve have a decent reserve still in place and also added help for their special teams if needed.
There is no shortage of ways the team can take advantage of this. Rumors are the squad could be increased to as many as 20 players. A reminder of just how drastic an impact the virus can have if teams aren’t vigilant about controlling its spread. It will be fascinating to see which players GM Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy end up filling the squad up with. Odds are it may include a few outside names too.