Concerned that not all NFL coaches are properly wearing protective face coverings on the sideline, the league now reserves the right to take away draft picks from teams that flout the rules.
In a memo sent Wednesday to all 32 clubs, Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president of football operations, reminded teams of the importance of adhering to COVID-19 protocols.
“We are only through Week 3 of the season,” he wrote. “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.”
The memo, obtained by The Times, was sent a day after three Tennessee Titans players and five other employees of the team tested positive for coronavirus. On Wednesday, a fourth player tested positive.
The Titans’ facility is closed, and the NFL announced Wednesday morning that it is rescheduling Sunday’s Pittsburgh-Tennessee game for either Monday or Tuesday night.
In the first three weeks of games, the NFL doled out at least $1.75 million in fines to coaches and teams not in compliance with the mask rules. Coaches are fined $100,000 each, and their teams $250,000.
Coaches Sean Payton of New Orleans and Jon Gruden of Las Vegas were fined, as were Denver’s Vic Fangio, San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan and Seattle’s Pete Carroll.
“While we saw significant progress in Week 3 with compliance from club personnel, wearing of protective equipment is still not universal,” Vincent wrote, “and this lack of compliance creates unnecessary risk to game day participants.”
The league is threatening to step up the punishments.
Wrote Vincent: “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).”