The 2020 NFL season brought a lot of things which were different from the previous years due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. With all organized team activities being virtual and training camps occurring at team facilities, another casualty of the pandemic was training camp rosters. With no preseason games, the NFL made the requirement for teams to only carry 80 players rather than the standard and 90 unless they broke up their practices to multiple facilities.
As for the 2021 season, the NFL owners just agreed to go back to 90-man rosters during training camp. But unlike the previous four seasons, there will be incremental cut downs throughout training camp rather than just one cut from 90 to 53 prior to Week 1. This per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero:
NFL owners just approved a 90-man roster to start training camp this year, source said, with cuts to 85 on Aug. 17, 80 on Aug. 24 and 53 on Aug. 31.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 26, 2021
The three dates listed all fall on a Tuesday and come after each week of the NFL preseason. Teams will be required to cut five players following their first preseason game and another five players following Week 2 of the preseason. Final roster cut downs where teams determine their 53-man roster will occur on Tuesday, August 31, 2021.
Going from 80 players down to 53 players is exactly what team saw last season. Rather than only have 80 players throughout training camp, teams will have to make the decision to cut five players after each preseason game.
The NFL used to do multiple cut downs for teams as recently as 2016. Previously, teams had to cut down to 75 players before their final preseason game in Week 4.
With no Week 4 of the preseason as games have been reduced to only three in 2021 except for the Steelers and Cowboys additionally facing off in the Hall of Fame game, teams will have extra practice time with only their 53-man roster and practice squad. As of now, practice squads are set to go back to 12 players as they were supposed to be in 2020 before expanding to 16 players due to COVID-19 precautions.
With final roster cuts downs being 12 days before the majority of NFL teams kick off on Sunday, September 12, there will be much more opportunity for teams to scour the waiver wire and make additional moves prior to Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season. With the extra week between the preseason and the regular season, it almost acts as if teams have an extra bye before the season starts and could attempt to make changes with their personnel and bring new players up to speed.
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