The NFL is vowing to be even more vigilant in enforcing violations of PPE and facemask protocols in Week 3, reminding all teams and employees of the regulations again this week and putting offenders on notice for larger fines and penalties.
The issue of coaches and staff wearing facemasks has been debated in the media, and, given the nature of daily testing, some have questioned if the NFL needs to be this proactive with enforcement. The reality is the league office is unified in its desire to see everyone on the sidelines abiding by the mask standards, and sources said that will not be changing. If anything, seeing nearly 20 percent of the league's head coaches draw fines in Week 2, after being warned of the consequences prior to play, has furthered the momentum within Park Avenue to monitor this in an effort to get full compliance.
According to league sources, it would not be surprising if repeat offenders were subjected to fines that could double or triple, but other options are in play as well. The sources said that per the NFL's game day operations standards the league could also opt to suspend a coach who did not comply with the sideline regulations or could also strip their team one draft pick or more. Offending coaches have been notified in-game in some instances, league sources said, about their violations.
"There are coaches who have been warned during halftime," according to a league source.
At this point the $100,000 fine for an individual coach and $250,000 fine for his team is seen as a baseline, but those who have already been punished face far steeper consequences. The league is taking this matter incredibly seriously, and has made promises to mayors and governors and local health officials across the country that the sideline protocols would be followed in order to secure clearance to play. And they have collectively bargained them with the NFLPA. If a coach were to be punished beyond a fine at this point, it should not come as a surprise, the sources said. The league began sending memorandums to all team employees about these matters dating back to August.
"For repeat offenders, suspensions and draft pick penalties are definitely on the table," one league source said. "This is ridiculous. It's a total disregard for our protocols to see what some of these sidelines look like."
Furthermore, in San Francisco and Buffalo in particular there are county ordinances in place that require everyone wearing a facemask.
The NFL handed out nearly $2 million in fines to teams and clubs from Week 2; those numbers will surge significantly if a similar display unfolds in Week 3, sources said, with the potential for penalties to move beyond fines if this continues to be a widespread problem. The letter penalized coaches received from the NFL last week included the following language about repeat transgressions:
"Future violations of this rule or any other league policy ... will result in increased accountability measures for you, individually, as well as your club."
Suffice to say, the league is taking the matter quite seriously.