The New Orleans Saints are under investigation from the NFL regarding COVID-19 violations during the 2020 regular season, in what could result in the third instance of protocol violations that will lead to a significant punishment.
Before the regular season, the NFL created strict COVID-19 safety guidelines to better ensure the safety of all team personnel. Multiple teams broke protocols during the regular season, leading to fines and draft-pick forfeitures, but New Orleans was one of the few teams guilty of breaking protocols multiple times.
Now, due to an incident in Week 15 tied to Alvin Kamara’s positive COVID-19 case, the Saints could be facing punishment from the NFL for a third time.
NFL investigating New Orleans Saints for coronavirus protocol violations
According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelisserio, the Saints face discipline for reported violations of the NFL’s policies tied to an issue that may have contributed to Kamara’s infection before Week 17. Not only did Kamara have to sit out the game, but several Saints running backs also were sidelined because contact tracing deemed them high-risk close contacts.
The NFL used video surveillance inside team facilities this season to ensure that players and coaches were following the mandatory safety guidelines. During a review of the Saints’ football, Kamara was spotted interacting with a non-employee who wasn’t supposed to be allowed inside the facility. Furthermore, per The Athletic’s Jeff Duncan, the star running back refused to wear his contract tracing device the entire season.
This wouldn’t be the first or even second time the Saints have faced allegations of violating COVID-19 protocols. The organization and head coach Sean Payton were both disciplined during the regular season for violations.
In Week 2, Sean Payton was caught on video not wearing his mask properly on the sidelines. It was captured multiple times on the Monday Night Football broadcast and the NFL acted swiftly. The Saints were fined $250,000 and Payton was fined $100,000. The NFL hoped the first punishment would send a message to the Saints.
A few months later, the Saints committed another violation. Following a Week 9 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, players and coaches celebrated in the locker room without masks, violating the safety protocols. Shortly after, the NFL stripped the Saints of a seventh-round draft pick and fined the organization $500,000.
Much like with the second punishment, New Orleans plans to challenge any discipline they receive from the league for this third violation. It will be an even bigger blow for the franchise if their appeal is denied, given they could face a much larger fine or lose a significantly higher pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The New Orleans Saints were already in an unprecedented salary cap crunch this offseason, making money and draft picks even more valuable. If the team loses both, it will make reshaping this roster to retain its status as a Super Bowl contender even more challenging.