NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to all 32 clubs on Monday regarding COVID-19 protocol compliance, and in it introduced new measures for increased safety and repercussions if they are not followed.
The league is again stressing the importance of following protocol to ensure the season can continue as scheduled with minimal contraction of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. For the first time, the NFL is also threatening forfeiture of games if a team cannot participate due to COVID-19 spread coming as a result of not following protocol.
"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," Goodell stated in the Monday memo, obtained by NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.
In the prior weeks, the league focused on adherence to the league's protective personal equipment and social distancing policies, threatening fines and forfeiture of draft picks for repeat offenders after multiple coaches had been seen failing to wear proper facial coverings on the sidelines during games. The threat of forfeiture, though, is a step up in seriousness.
The memo comes after the outbreak within the Tennessee Titans organization, which resulted in the rescheduling of their Week 4 game against Pittsburgh and forced rescheduling of the Steelers' game against the Ravens. Positive tests in New England -- star quarterback Cam Newton -- and Kansas City -- practice squad QB Jordan Ta'amu-- forced the league to postpone the Patriots' game against the Chiefs from Sunday to Monday night.
In response, the league has changed its protocols, requiring a longer on-boarding process for free-agent tryouts, banning gatherings outside of the club facility, limiting the number of tryouts permitted per week and implementing a league-wide video monitoring system to ensure compliance.
Goodell touted the effectiveness of the league's rigorous protocols, calling the league's testing regimen "the most comprehensive of any sport or business" and pointing to its effectiveness during the league's preseason activities. However, Goodell said, it is on the league's participants to implement them diligently and "simply put, compliance is mandatory."
"The protocols do not implement themselves, however, and our progress thus far cannot lead us to complacency," the Commissioner wrote. "Complacency is our shared opponent. We must reinforce our commitment to full adherence to our mandatory safety protocols and best practices.
"The consequences of rescheduling or even missing games are obvious. Our fans will be deprived of games. Competitive inequities will be introduced into our season. Players will not be paid for games not played and clubs will similarly suffer financial consequences."