As the NFL continues to deal with complications of the coronavirus pandemic amid the 2020 season, commissioner Roger Goodell and the league are upping the consequences for those who do not follow the COVID-19 protocols.
In a memo sent to all 32 NFL teams, Goodell noted that teams, players and personnel could be subject to fines, loss of draft picks and potentially forfeiting a contest if protocols are broken.
“There have been breaches to the protocols and individual players, staff, and clubs have been disciplined as a result,” Goodell said in the statement. “We will not only conduct reviews in cases of multiple positive tests at one club, but the league and union will continue to conduct inspections of club facilities to ensure protocol compliance. If it is determined that club personnel or players failed to have followed the protocols, discipline will be issued and will escalate where noncompliance continues. Protocol violations that result in virus spread requiring adjustments to the schedule or otherwise impacting other teams will result in additional financial and competitive discipline, including the adjustment or loss of draft choices or even the forfeit of a game.”
Financial repercussions have already been seen across the league, as coaches have received fines of $100,000 for failing to properly wear their masks or face covering while on the sidelines. Jon Gruden and Sean Payton were some of the notable offenders. Organizations have also been fined $250,000 for the actions of their personnel.
ProFootballTalk reported that docking draft picks has also been floated in recent week as coaches and others on the sideline continue to struggle with the policies. However, the idea of teams having to forfeit games is a major threat, acting as the end-all for teams who fail to comply with the orders.
The uptick in punishments and urgency from the league comes after a week in which the NFL dealt with its first case of an outbreak and game postponements. The Tennessee Titans had 20 members (10 players, 10 personnel members) test positive for COVID-19 since Sept. 24.
While the team finally announced its first day of no positives on Monday, its Week 4 matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers was postponed and forced the league to adjust the schedule later on in the season. A Week 4 game between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs had to be moved from Sunday to Monday after Patriots quarterback Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19.
Whether or not the threat of forfeiting games will become a reality is yet to be seen, but it is clear that the league has now reached a point where it wants to show teams just how serious it is about the protocols.
Camera pans to coaches on the sidelines in Week 5 will be the first indication if the new potential punishments shift the actions of personnel.