When the NFL developed its policy that coaches must cover their mouths and noses on the sidelines, the NFL planned eventually to conduct COVID-19 testing on players and coaches three times per week. Now that the NFL is conducting, and likely will continue to conduct, COVID-19 testing on a daily basis, an important question needs to be considered.
Should coaches and other sideline personnel who are tested every day be exempt from the mask mandate?
The league office and several coaches currently are at odds over the rule and the application of it. Already, the NFL has fined three head coaches $100,000 each (Kyle Shanahan, Vic Fangio, and Pete Carroll) and their teams $250,000 each (the 49ers, Broncos, and Seahawks). Sean Payton and Jon Gruden, and the Saints and Raiders, will likely be next.
Other coaches weren’t consistently wearing masks, or were consistently failing to cover their noses while covering their mouths. They could also be fined. At a minimum, they surely will receive another warning.
As Simms and I discussed on Tuesday’s PFT Live, the owners ultimately have the power to change the rule. If they believe that the mask requirement represents a redundancy that isn’t necessary given the frequency of testing, they can vote to overturn it. If, as Simms argued, the mask makes it harder to call plays (or, more accurately, for others to hear the play calls), there’s a specific reason not to wear it. If coaches and players will continue to be tested on a daily basis, there’s a broader reason for coaches to not wear them at all.
To the extent the rule is driven by optics, it’s far better to not have the rule (and to attribute it to daily testing) than to have a rule that isn’t consistently followed.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the scrapping of the rule has yet to be discussed. Now that teams are having significant sums sucked out of their bank accounts, the topic needs to be addressed. Even if the league office doesn’t want to retreat, the owners run the league. If the owners decide to take a step back and ask the broader question of whether masks are needed in light of daily testing, the owners have the right to do it — and ultimately to decide that the masks simply aren’t needed.