A player on the practice field in training camp is not showing much. Someone else out there, unsigned and thus available, might work out better. Normally, you make the move and bring in the newcomer.
A player comes free during the season and you want to claim him, thinking he might be able to help you right away, as soon as this week’s game. Normally, it is an easy call. You cut someone you already have, claim the new guy off waivers, hope you are awarded him and start the acclimation process.
In both scenarios, there is an immediacy to the proceedings. The player being considered could be signed, sealed and delivered into your building in less than 24 hours.
This summer and this season? That turnaround will take five days.
This is part of the new-age thinking the Giants and all other NFL teams must incorporate into an unprecedented spring and summer — and, most likely, fall and winter — trying to start and complete a football schedule working in and around a global pandemic. Inside the Giants’ offices, discussions already have taken place about the possible need to stick with players already on the roster longer than usual. Rather than jettison a player, showing patience and keeping him around might be the way to go.
“That’s one thing we have talked about,’’ head coach Joe Judge said. “This may be a different training camp around the league in terms of the time of the claims. That’s not going to eliminate the roster moving, it’s still the National Football League and people are going to look to fill their needs and possibly improve their depth as they see guys on the waiver wire. The one thing I think you have to be conscious about as a coach is if you have to move somebody off the roster to claim somebody, you better have a plan in place for that week so you can say you are at 80, but you are really at 79 if that makes sense.’’
It makes sense. Every player on the Giants’ roster had to undergo a new protocol before they could take the field. Everyone had to take three COVID-19 tests and, if they all came back negative, then were permitted to take a physical. The process lasted five days. The anticipation is this protocol will continue into the season. So, if you want someone, you will have to wait at least five days to get him.
The expanded roster in training camp makes this somewhat less of a predicament. During the season, it definitely will be a factor and will necessitate strategizing on a week-to-week basis. Planning more than a week in advance will be imperative.
“You can no longer work a guy out on a Tuesday, Tuesday night he is doing meetings and Wednesday he’s practicing with the team,’’ Judge said. “It’s important for us to establish depth.’’
It will help that the league expanded the practice squads (they already were set to increase this season from 10 to 12) to 16 players, with four of the players protected every week from being signed by other teams. Previously, all practice squad players could be signed to another team’s active roster.
Another new wrinkle: Up to six players on the practice squad — normally reserved for youngsters — can be veterans, forming a sort of tier system.
“That’s going to be key for all the teams and how they manage those 16 positions going forward,’’ Judge said.
It figures to be more difficult than ever for undrafted free agents to stick on final rosters, given there are no preseason games for these largely unheralded players to make an impression. The first of just 14 padded practices for the Giants is not until Aug. 17 and the lead-up to the Sept. 14 season opener will contain fewer live drills and hitting than ever before. A first impression might be more important of an impression than ever before.