NFL Fines Saints, Patriots For Covid-19 Protocol Violations; New Orleans Loses Draft Pick

As Pittsburgh Steelers wait intently and impatiently to hear any news regarding movement on possible disciplinary measures taken against the Baltimore Ravens by the NFL following a preach of Covid-19 protocols that led to a massive outbreak likely approaching three dozen individuals between players and staff, the league has moved to penalize other teams for more distant infractions—including a second penalty that involves the forfeiture of a draft pick.

That loss of a draft pick goes to the New Orleans Saints, who will be stripped of a seventh-round pick, partly due to their status as repeat offenders as an organization that has previously been fined for protocol violations. Ironically, the first fine was for head coach Sean Payton, who had the coronavirus back in the Spring, not wearing a mask on the sideline.

And part of the behavior for which they are being disciplined is a post-game locker room celebration in which many maskless players are seen dancing around to music. Payton is also seen in the video participating in the celebrations, with his mask pulled down around his neck.

In all, the Saints received a $500,000 fine, the same amount that the Las Vegas Raiders were fined for as repeat offenders. The Raiders also lost a sixth-round pick, while the Saints were docked a seventh-round pick. The discipline stems from a post-game celebration in week nine after defeating the Tompa Brady Buccaneers.

New Orleans has appealed the fine by arguing that they are not the only team to have celebrated—inside of an enclosed and already tight locker room—after games without wearing masks. They will inevitably lose this appeal. A league source maintains that other teams have been disciplined for similar offenses. Previous incidents that were followed by warnings was also a factor in the level of discipline.

In addition to the Saints, the New England Patriots were also disciplined for Covid-19 protocol violations, fined at the amount of $350,000. Their discipline stems from lapses in protocols at the time that quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Stephon Gilmore tested positive.

Given that both of these incidents occurred weeks ago, we should not expect to hear any news regarding discipline against the Ravens for a while, but they inevitably will receive some level of discipline, after it being reported that strength and conditioning coach Steve Saunders reported to work, with symptoms (it is disputed whether or not he actually reported having symptoms) in addition to not wearing his mask.

Interactions with Saunders have led to dozens of players, coaches, and staff members testing positive, and it has caused the Ravens’ game against the Steelers to be postponed twice. As of this writing, it remains on track to be played tomorrow.

Given the Ravens’ status as first-time offenders and the precedents set by previous fines, and given what we can currently know prior to an NFL investigation, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if they are only hit with a fine somewhere in the range of $350-500,000. Meanwhile, after tomorrow, forfeiture will be a moot point, since the game will have already been played.

In addition to the Ravens, the Denver Broncos are also under investigation for potential discipline. The Broncos just played a game essentially without a quarterback yesterday. According to reports, their quarterbacks who were placed on the Reserve/Covid-19 List as close contacts were uncooperative with league efforts to ascertain what happened, which opens them up to discipline.

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