Quarterback Cam Newton was sidelined earlier this season after a positive COVID-19 test. The Patriots were fined $350,000 for violations of the league’s protocols. David J. Phillip/Associated Press

The NFL has fined the New Orleans Saints $500,000 and stripped them of a 2021 seventh-round draft pick for violating league COVID-19 protocols, a person with direct knowledge of the discipline told The Associated Press on Sunday.

The New England Patriots were fined $350,000 for similar violations, the person said, speaking to the AP on 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 in close proximity to 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.

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 person with direct knowledge of the situation said the four quarterbacks weren’t wearing their masks the whole time they were together as required by the league’s pandemic protocols. That person 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 Thanksgiving night, then moved to Sunday and moved again 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.

DOLPHINS: Tua Tagovailoa was inactive for the Miami Dolphins with a left thumb injury, so Ryan Fitzpatrick started at quarterback against the winless New York Jets.

Tagovailoa was downgraded to doubtful Saturday after he hurt the thumb on his throwing hand in practice Wednesday. He was limited at practice throughout the week. Reid Sinnett was elevated from the practice squad to serve as the backup to Fitzpatrick, who’ll make his first start since Oct. 18. That previous start also came against the Jets.

Fitzpatrick is 3-3 as a starter this season, while Tagovailoa is 3-1.

JAGUARS: Jacksonville fired general manager Dave Caldwell after the team’s 10th consecutive loss and sending a clear message that the small-market franchise is headed in a new direction.

It was a move many thought owner Shad Khan should have made at the end of last season. But Khan gave Caldwell another chance to make Jacksonville a playoff contender for just the second time in his eight-year tenure.

Caldwell came up well short of the owner’s winning expectations, making Khan’s decision an easy and somewhat expected one.

Khan will keep Coach Doug Marrone and his staff in place to finish out the season and likely let the next general manager decide his fate. It would be stunning to see Marrone return in 2021.

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