The NFL is threatening teams with possible suspensions for sideline personnel, including coaches, who do not properly wear face coverings during the pandemic.
Forfeiting draft picks also could be among disciplinary measures for failing to comply with league/players' union protocols.
In a memo obtained by The Associated Press, Troy Vincent, who oversees NFL football operations, told the 32 teams Wednesday that “accountability” is required on the sidelines.
“We will continue to address lack of compliance with accountability measures that may also include suspensions of persons involved, and/or the forfeiture of a draft choice(s),” Vincent wrote.
“As you know, the game-day protocols agreed to with the NFLPA require that coaches and other non-player personnel wear appropriate face coverings at all times on the field and in the coaches’ booths. ... While we saw significant progress in Week 3 with compliance from club personnel, wearing of protective equipment is still not universal, and this lack of compliance creates unnecessary risk to game-day participants.”
The NFL has fined several coaches $100,000 for lack of compliance, including Sean Payton of New Orleans and Jon Gruden of Las Vegas, who both have said they contracted and recovered from the coronavirus. Teams were fined $250,000.
But there still have been more instances of coaches and sideline personnel either wearing the masks or gaiters improperly or basically using them as scarves rather than as protective gear.
And with the league now dealing with its first outbreak of the coronavirus — four players and five other members of the Tennessee Titans have tested positive — adhering to protocols is a must.
Vincent's latest memo should get the attention of all 32 teams, none of which want to see a member of the coaching staff suspended for a game — or more. Nor do the teams covet losing draft picks.
If fines don't work, though, the NFL is adamant about more strict discipline.
“Both our own and independent medical advisors have emphasized the need to remain vigilant and disciplined in following the processes and protocols put in place by agreement with the NFLPA as well as by state and local governments,” Vincent wrote. “We are only through Week 3 of the season. If we are to play a full and uninterrupted season, we all must remain committed to our efforts to mitigate the risk of transmission of 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. A failure to adhere to the negotiated protocols or to government directives can have an adverse impact on both other players or staff members of your club, and of other clubs as well. Selective or inconsistent compliance threatens to undermine fan confidence in our health and safety protocols and the competitive fairness and integrity of the NFL season.”
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