NFL issues memo threatening ‘significant discipline’ for violations of league’s alcohol policy

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There’s a renewed focus on alcohol in the NFL following two high-profile, though disparate, incidents this week.

The NFL prohibits alcohol on team planes or buses. But the Commanders had beer on the team plane Monday, and the league is reviewing what took place in the early-morning hours of Friday with the Tennessee Titans.

Titans offensive coordinator Todd Downing was arrested Friday on suspicion of DUI and speeding. According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Downing was pulled over at 2:30 a.m. CT and was booked two hours later.

The Titans beat the Packers on Thursday night at Lambeau Field. The game concluded around 10:15 p.m. CT, and the team wouldn’t have gotten to the airport until close to midnight. The flight is just less than two hours. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel declined to comment on whether alcohol was served on the team plane.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to teams Friday reminding them of league policy.

“In light of recent events, clubs are reminded that League policy prohibits alcoholic beverages, including beer, in the locker rooms, practice or office facilities, or while traveling on team buses or planes at any time during the preseason, regular season, or postseason,” the statement read. “This applies to all players, coaches, club personnel, and guests traveling with your team.

“This policy has been in place for many years. Making alcohol available at club facilities or while traveling creates significant and unnecessary risks to the League, its players, coaches and others. Violations of this important policy will be taken seriously and will result in significant discipline. 

“Each club should ensure that its travel arrangements do not include providing alcohol service at any time and should also take appropriate steps to confirm that alcohol (whether beer or any other alcoholic beverage) is not available at its facility. Please direct all further questions on this subject to Management Council or Football Operations.”

On Monday, following the Commanders’ upset victory against the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke was taped on the team plane with beer in his hand and cans beside him. 

The Commanders reached out to the league and explained how they would handle the discipline internally, and a source told CBS Sports that included monetary fines of at least one player. That discipline satisfied the league. 

Commanders coach Ron Rivera delivered an impassioned speech in a team meeting later in the week explaining “why they can’t do things like that,” according to a source.

Earlier this month, a judge sentenced former Chiefs assistant coach Britt Reid to three years in prison for felony DWI when he crashed his truck into two parked cars in February 2021 that left a young girl seriously injured. Court documents showed Reid had been drinking at the Chiefs facility before the crash. An investigation by the Chiefs later showed no other employees gathered at the facilities where alcohol was consumed. 

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