I'm not necessarily in favor of expanding the active rosters beyond 53, but I do think the league is doing a good thing by considering a six- to eight-week injury exemption, which has yet to be voted on.
I'd also like to see the gameday inactive list simply go away. It would make things simpler. If you're on the 53, you're eligible to play.
That might make it easier for teams to keep opponents guessing as to whether or not a player listed as "questionable" on the injury report is going to play, but as it is the inactive lists are turned in 90 minutes before kickoff. They've kept the opponent guessing through the entire week of preparation, and that's what matters anyhow.
I can already hear the "Fantasy Football" players howling at the complications that would arise from not knowing 90 minutes before kickoff if their "questionable" star receiver is playing or not. Cry me a river.
I'm in favor of simple, and everybody on the roster being eligible to play is simple. The most difficult injuries to deal with for a team are those that occur during a game and, with more active players, teams would be more equipped to get through a game when a rash of injuries hits.
Playing with second- and third-string players is punishment enough for injuries. A rough day at one position, for example, when two offensive tackles go down (as happened to the Packers in Kansas City last year), shouldn't cripple a team's chances if it has another player at that position on the 53. Seeing the appropriate fill-in standing on the sideline in street clothes because he's a gameday inactive doesn't feel right to me.
As for the long-term injury exemption being discussed – which would allow teams to place one player on an injury list for six weeks (eligible to return to a game in eight weeks), provided he was on the active roster in Week 1 – it's a good start. Teams shouldn't have to decide in September if an injury to a key player is truly season-ending or if he might be able to come back later on. Injured reserve is irrevocable and should be, but I'd like to see some middle ground.
I wouldn't want to see football become like baseball, with its 15-day and 60-day disabled lists, but there should be a provision for injuries aside from the all-or-nothing (on the roster or on injured reserve) choice. I don't know if one exemption is enough, but let's start there and see if it's worth establishing a higher limit at some point.
There's no reason to increase roster size. That's why you don't do it.
Fifty-three roster players and eight practice-squad players are enough to prepare to play a football game, and 46 in uniform on gameday should be more than enough for coaches to execute the strategies necessary to win a game.
What happens if you increase those numbers, especially the gameday actives number? You get more strategy, especially strategy that favors specialization. It would mean more players running onto and off the field. It would mean more one-down players and fewer every-downs players, and more specialists mean more good players and fewer great players, and that's not good for the game.
Here's the big one: More players mean more injury liability, and that's a major no-no at this sensitive time in pro football's history.
In some ways, the game might even benefit from smaller rosters. Two-way players had to save themselves, lest they exhausted themselves in the first quarter or a coach lost his star running back from trying to make a tackle on defense. A pass-rush specialist who plays only 15-20 downs a game would be perpetually fresh, and that could only mean more hits on the quarterback and more quarterbacks lost to injury.
The last thing the NFL needs right now is to heighten the physical intensity of its games, right?
Fifty-three active-roster players and eight practice-squad players offer a deep, 15-man reserve of talent. That's plenty.
Forty-six gameday actives allow for 24 reserves to be used on special teams which, by the way, have had their action reduced by recent rules changes and might even see the kickoff go away all together.
We are firmly entrenched in the era of game-softening efforts, all of which are aimed at guarding player health and safety, and that's not a movement that demands more numbers.
The increase to 90 for training camp is part of that player-safety movement, as the increase in the size of training-camp rosters will reduce reps for stars and starters and still allow coaches to conduct their practice regimens. When the season begins, of course, practice regimens are further softened and were significantly softened by last summer's CBA, and none of that is reason to increase roster size or game-day actives.
It's just not necessary.
Cast your vote in the poll on the right, and if you leave a comment below, it might be used in an "After Further Review" video segment later this week.