The first two weeks of the NFL season have been especially expensive for five head coaches as Pete Carroll, Kyle Shanahan, Vic Fangio, Sean Payton and Jon Gruden were each fined $100,000 for not wearing face coverings on the sidelines.

The league’s COVID-19 protocol requires all sideline staff to wear masks or face coverings at all times, but as those lofty fines were getting handed down, many questioned the league’s mask requirement in the first place.

While masks are essential for limiting the spread of the coronavirus, NFL players and coaches are frequently tested. Players aren’t required to wear masks on the sidelines.

On Wednesday, the NFL’s chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills offered his explanation for the mask rule in an interview, via ProFootballTalk:

“First and foremost, it’s part of our agreed upon protocol between the league and the NFL Players Association. So it’s not optional for people to follow that protocol, right? All of the parts of that protocol are mandatory. But getting to the philosophy behind it, we’ve said consistently testing is not what keeps us safe. Tests are important, but no test is perfect.

“We do have those false positives and false negatives, so it is possible that you could have a negative test result and still be infected. In those cases, the face coverings are very important. So we think it’s just another step that’s important in risk-mitigation. I’ll also say that some of the public health authorities have mandated that sideline personnel wear face coverings in their stadiums in their locations. So for all those reasons, it’s not something that’s optional for us.”

But, of course, requiring masks would be far more effective if players were required to wear masks on the sidelines as well. Studies show that cloth masks primarily protect those around the wearer, so coaches and sideline staff are still susceptible to infection from close interactions with unmasked players (taking into account the false negative possibility).

Still, the fact that those guidelines were collectively agreed upon between the NFLPA and NFL should absolutely put aside objection from coaches. None of these fines should be a surprise — those rules were clear.

Wear a mask. Or be like Andy Reid and find a fog-proof face shield.

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