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NFL reminds teams that “wearing of protective equipment is not universal”

The NFL was bracing for its first COVID-19 outbreak on a team, and it finally arrived with the Titans following Week 3. Mike Florio and Chris Simms look at what's next for the league and Tennessee.

Although the NFL apparently won’t be handing out another round of six-figure fines for non-compliance with COVID-19 protocols, the NFL has reminded its teams that more work needs to be done.

In a September 30 memo to the 32 coaches, a copy of which PFT has obtained, General Managers, team presidents, chief executives, and others, NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent points out that the league saw “significant progress” in Week Three regarding the requirement that coaches and non-player personnel wear face coverings at all times. However, the memo notes that “wearing of protective equipment is not universal, and this lack of compliance creates unnecessary risk to game day participants.”

The memo comes at a time when the league is trying to fully and completely assess the outbreak in Tennessee, and to devise the best plan for proceeding with the Steelers-Titans game scheduled for Sunday.

“We are only through Week 3 of the season,” Vincent writes. “If we are to play and full and uninterrupted season, we all must remain committed to our efforts to mitigate the risk of transmission of the the virus. Inconsistent adherence to health and safety protocols, such as wearing face coverings and observing physical distancing requirements will put the 2020 season at risk.”

The memo also points out that selective or inconsistent compliance can impact fan confidence in the pandemic protocols, and in turn the “competitive fairness and integrity of the NFL season.” That’s a great point; the overriding goal is to get the games played. Periodic outbreaks could create situations in which the games are played under situations that aren’t as fair as they can be for both teams, especially if for example the Steelers are able to practice all week, the Titans aren’t, and they still play on Sunday.

Vincent concludes the memo by reminding teams that discipline can and will be imposed, and that beyond fines there could be suspensions of involved persons and/or the forfeiture of draft choices if game-day protocols are not properly respected.