NFL punishes Saints for COVID-19 violations: Team forfeits sixth-round draft pick, must pay fine, per report

It took a massive amount of focus, dedication, determination and luck in order for the NFL to successfully complete its 2020 season during a raging COVID-19 pandemic. In order to set themselves up for success, the league and NFLPA agreed to a stringent set of protocols to combat and avoid the novel coronavirus, but inevitably hit more than one rough patch during the season. One such patch was fueled by controversy surrounding the New Orleans Saints, and the organization is now feeling the wrath of commissioner Roger Goodell because of it.

They’ve reportedly been fined $700,000 for violating COVID-19 protocol in 2020, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, and will also be forced to forfeit their sixth-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. 

This is, of course, a massive about-face from what stated from NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy, who told Pro Football Talk neither the Saints nor the Las Vegas Raiders — the latter having also been found to violate protocol — would not lose a draft pick as punishment. 

“They are not forfeiting them,” McCarthy said. “Neither team will lose those picks.”

Not long after that stance was published, it’s been undercut by the NFL Network report. It’s also possible, however, that McCarthy was speaking to the 2021 NFL Draft, in which no picks were taken away from the Saints, but the full context of his statement isn’t clear.

Nonetheless, with the 2022 sixth-round pick forfeited, it then begs the question of if a team like the Raiders will also lose a pick for their role in complicating the season, having reportedly already been fined $800,000 — per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network — as well as clubs like the Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens, both of whom forced massive schedule shifts that put other teams at a competitive disadvantage. The league’s 180-degree turn on the Saints now hints at one to potentially come regarding the Raiders, draft-wise, but nothing but time can tell if that occurs.

If it doesn’t, Goodell can expect to hear from Saints owner Gayle Benson regarding the matter, if he hasn’t already. The punishment for New Orleans stems specifically from at least one maskless celebration and other questions, with All-Pro running back Alvin Kamara catching a lot of heat at one point for socializing in public in close proximity to others while maskless.

It’s unknown at this moment if the Saints will fight this punishment. 

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