Saints fined $500K US by NFL, lose 2021 7th-rounder for COVID-19 violations: report

The NFL has fined the New Orleans Saints $500,000 US and stripped them of a 2021 seventh-round draft pick for violating league COVID-19 protocols.

Team expected to appeal; Patriots also out $350K for similar infraction

The Saints were fined $500,000 US by the NFL for COVID-19 violations. The team's celebrations after a Week 9 win included players not wearing masks and were captured on video and posted to social media. (Brett Duke/The Associated Press)

The NFL has fined the New Orleans Saints $500,000 US and stripped them of a 2021 seventh-round draft pick for violating league COVID-19 protocols.

A source told The Associated Press of the move Sunday as well as the New England Patriots being fined $350,000 for similar violations. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because neither the league nor the teams have announced the fines or loss of draft pick.

New Orleans was fined as a repeat offender; Sean Payton previously was docked $150,000 and the team $250,000 because the head coach failed to properly wear a face covering during a Week 2 game against the Raiders.

The more recent issue with the Saints came after a Week 9 win over Tampa Bay when the team's celebrations included players not wearing masks while near one another. The celebrations were captured on video by some players and posted to social media.

The Saints are expected to appeal the discipline, which ESPN first reported Sunday morning.

New England, which had a mini-outbreak of COVID-19 earlier this season that included positive tests for quarterback Cam Newton and cornerback Stephon Gilmore, was fined for not following protocols at that time.

Broncos minus 4 QBs on Sunday

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic caused major disruptions around the NFL all week, again calling into question the league's plan to play a full schedule after several weeks that went relatively smoothly.

The Denver Broncos will be without their four quarterbacks when they host the Saints on Sunday. Starter Drew Lock, backup Brett Rypien and practice squad veteran Blake Bortles were deemed high-risk close contacts with No. 3 quarterback Jeff Driskel on Wednesday, the day before Driskel tested positive for COVID-19.

A source said the four quarterbacks weren't wearing their masks the whole time they were together as required by the league's pandemic protocols. The individual also spoke on condition of anonymity because neither the league nor the Broncos revealed that information.

The Baltimore Ravens have 20 players on the COVID-19 list, which is for players who've either tested positive for the virus or had close contact with an infected person. Baltimore had already disciplined an unidentified staff member for violating COVID-19 protocols, and the outbreak -- the worst on any team this season -- left the Ravens with three defensive linemen and one quarterback available for Tuesday night's game at Pittsburgh.

That game originally was scheduled for Thursday night, then moved to Sunday and finally to Tuesday. It's uncertain if it will be played then as well.

The Steelers placed starting running back James Conner on the COVID-19 list Saturday.

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