Loss of NFL draft picks could be next punishment for coaches who don’t wear masks

Tanking for better picks in the 2021 NFL Draft could be a popular strategy with the quarterback talent expected to be available. But if a head coach wants to tank at tanking, a new method has emerged.

The NFL sent a memo to teams Wednesday warning that if teams failed to follow mask guidelines, suspensions or the loss of draft picks could follow. The announcement came the same day that the league chose to postpone Titans vs. Steelers for at least a day or two because of a COVID-19 outbreak among the Tennessee squad.

The memo to teams came from Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations. The memo, reported in full by NFL.com, read as follows:

“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. 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.”

Week 2 brought five separate fines for head coaches who failed to follow mask protocol on their sidelines. Las Vegas’ Jon Gruden, New Orleans’ Sean Payton, Denver’s Vic Fangio, Seattle’s Pete Carroll and San Francisco’s Kyle Shanahan all were handed $100,000 fines by the NFL for time spent on the sidelines without masks. Each coach’s team was also fined $250,000 for the infraction.

After Week 2, Gruden said the following in regard to his not wearing a mask: “I’m doing my best. You know, I’ve had the virus, OK. I’m doing my best. I’m very sensitive about it, but I’m calling plays. I just want to communicate in these situations and I apologizes and if I get fined, I will have to pay the fine, but I’m very sensitive about all of that and I apologize.”

Masks (and the lack thereof) have been a topic of conversation in college football of late, too. Mississippi State’s Mike Leach didn’t follow the SEC’s mask rules during the during the Bulldogs’ upset of defending national champions LSU on Sept. 26. 

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