By Amy Tennery
(Reuters) – Teams found violating COVID-19 safety protocols may be forced to forfeit games, the NFL said on Monday, as it ramped up rules designed to prevent spread of the coronavirus.
National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell instructed teams to “recommit” to safety protocols in a memo obtained by Reuters after positive tests forced the postponement of two Week 4 games.
“Protocol violations that result in virus spread requiring adjustments to the schedule or otherwise impacting other teams will result in additional financial and competitive discipline, including the adjustment or loss of draft choices or even the forfeit of a game,” said Goodell.
“Simply put, compliance is mandatory.”
The memo outlined changes to the league’s protocol, including bans on gatherings outside of club facilities, a limit to the number of tryouts allowed each week and an extended “onboarding process” for tryouts among free agents.
The league is implementing a video monitoring system to ensure compliance with the protocols – particularly the mandate that all staff and players wear protective gear such as face masks while in a club facility and traveling.
The league pushed a Sunday matchup between the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots to Monday, after Patriots quarterback and former league MVP Cam Newton tested positive, along with Chiefs practice squad member Jordan Ta’amu.
The NFL also postponed an Oct. 4 game between the Tennessee Titans and the Pittsburgh Steelers to Oct. 25 after a number of Titans personnel and players tested positive for COVID-19.
The NFL kicked off its 2020 campaign last month with numerous protocols in place after cancelling its preseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed more than 200,000 lives in the United States.
A handful of coaches were fined after appearing on the sidelines of Week 2 games without proper face coverings. Their affiliated teams also received fines.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)