NFL Tightens Grip As Protocol Violators Could Be Forced To Forfeit
The NFL during a call with the league's head coaches and GMs yesterday stressed that teams "must comply with the sport's protocols and warned them in a memo that further violations could result in the loss of draft picks or even forfeits of games," according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. The NFL also said that it is "implementing a video surveillance program to monitor teams' adherence to the in-season coronavirus protocols" developed by the league and the union. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote, "Simply put, compliance is mandatory." Maske notes yesterday's call and subsequent memo came with the NFL and the NFLPA "reviewing the origins of the Titans' outbreak." Sources said that the Titans "could face disciplinary measures by the NFL if they are found to have been in violation of the protocols." Maske notes the NFL has fined coaches, teams and players for violations of the coronavirus protocols, including Raiders TE Darren Waller being fined $30,000 yesterday for "violating mask-wearing requirements at a fundraiser he held." Nine other Raiders players who attended the event, including QB Derek Carr and TE Jason Witten, were "fined $15,000 apiece." Goodell wrote that the league and union will "inspect teams' facilities in addition to reviewing any cases of multiple positive tests on one team." He added any discipline for protocol violations will "escalate where noncompliance continues" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/6).
DROPPING THE HAMMER: USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell reports "several significant changes to the protocols (in agreement with the NFL Players Association) were reviewed" during yesterday's call. These include:
- A "longer onboarding process for free agent tryouts."
- A ban on "gathering away from team facilities."
- A "limit on tryouts permitted each week."
The NFL also is "considering mandates that would require all meetings to be conducted virtually, and that masks and face shields would no longer be optional for players during practices and walk-through sessions." The league "could also decrease the size of each team’s traveling party and reduce time allowed in team cafeterias and locker rooms." Bell writes the "message is clear: The NFL, determined to complete a full season within a pandemic, is increasingly willing to drop the hammer" (USA TODAY, 10/6).
GETTING SERIOUS: In N.Y., Ken Belson writes the "hastily called virtual meeting came after a tumultuous week that included the league's first team outbreak" on the Titans and two games this week having to be postponed. Going forward, if outbreaks on teams require that a game be postponed, the league will "continue to move games to Monday or Tuesday, or later in the season by juggling bye weeks." Yesterday's call was a "sign that the league was not satisfied that its memos were being taken seriously enough, and that lax adherence to health protocols could jeopardize the goal of playing a full calendar of games" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/6). NBCSN’s Chris Simms said, “Things have to get a little stricter. We see that. Just where we are in society right now, it seems like there’s more outbreak. It’s time to lock down even more, and I’m glad the NFL is staying on the organizations” (“PFT,” NBCSN, 10/6).
BUBBLE TALK: In Minneapolis, Chip Scoggins writes circumstances have "caused some to re-examine" whether a "protective bubble" should have been adopted by the league. Scoggins: "Players were not going to agree to a bubble, and frankly, I can't blame them. Even now, after a disruptive and scary week for multiple teams, a bubble would be a tough sell. Just imagine the logistics and what would be required of them." The NFL "absolutely should create a bubble for the playoffs." But with 3/4s of the season remaining, isolating 32 teams at this juncture "just seems impractical" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 10/6).