- Covered Saints for eight years at New Orleans Times-Picayune
- Previously covered LSU football, San Francisco 49ers
- Iowa native and University of Iowa graduate
METAIRIE, La. — The New Orleans Saints were the only NFL team to officially lose a draft choice over violations of the NFL-NFLPA COVID protocols during the 2020 season, according to the league.
The Saints were officially docked a sixth-round draft choice in 2022 and fined $700,000 after the appeals process was completed. The Las Vegas Raiders, meanwhile, did not wind up losing a draft choice but were fined $800,000.
A league source said the Saints were punished because of multiple violations and warnings, even beyond the three that were reported during the season. Those reported incidents included:
• The Saints being fined $250,000 and coach Sean Payton being fined $100,000 because Payton was not properly wearing a mask on the sideline during a Week 2 game.
• The Saints being fined $500,000 and losing a seventh-round draft pick as repeat offenders because Payton and players were spotted without masks during a postgame celebration in Week 9.
• The Saints facing further discipline after a non-team employee was spotted in proximity to players when the league reviewed video while following up on running back Alvin Kamara’s close contacts when he tested positive in December.
The Saints did not immediately comment on the league’s final decision. But sources made it clear after the season that the team did not agree with the severity of the punishments and planned to appeal them. One point of contention was that there were several other examples of players from other teams being spotted without masks in various postgame videos throughout the year.
A league source specified that the Week 9 incident was just one of multiple infractions and that the Saints weren’t singled out for the nature of the players dancing in the video or the fact it was posted on social media.
The Raiders were also facing the reported loss of a sixth-round draft choice and fines for what one source described to ESPN as “brazen and repeated violations of protocols.”
Among the Raiders’ reported infraction were coach Jon Gruden not wearing a mask properly on the sideline; the team allowing a non-credentialed employee access to the locker room following a game; and players appearing maskless and mixing with the crowd at tight end Darren Waller’s charity event.
Other teams that were reportedly facing fines for COVID infractions throughout the year included the Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers.
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