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Ron Rivera disciplines Commanders players for violating NFL’s alcohol ban

Commanders Coach Ron Rivera told the NFL he disciplined some Commanders players after they were drinking during their return home from Philadelphia on Monday night. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a memo to all NFL teams Friday reminding them of the league’s policy that prohibits alcoholic beverages at team facilities and while traveling to and from games, a rule that was violated by the Washington Commanders this week.

Coach Ron Rivera disciplined multiple Commanders players for their actions on the team plane following Monday night’s victory over the Eagles in Philadelphia. Video taken by players and shared on social media showed quarterback Taylor Heinicke drinking Busch Light beer and others participating in the celebration with him.

Goodell’s memo also came as the league reviews the case of Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Todd Downing for a possible alcohol-related violation of the NFL’s personal conduct 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,” Goodell wrote in Friday’s memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. “This applies to all players, coaches, club personnel, and guests traveling with your team.”

According to a person with knowledge of the situation, Rivera addressed the incident in a team meeting and reached out to league officials Tuesday morning to inform them of how he handled the matter.

The NFL said the Commanders’ response to the incident was sufficient and that it would not impose additional disciplinary measures.

Commanders players were boisterous after their win in Philadelphia, celebrating with blaring music and dancing in the locker room afterward. The celebration continued on the flight home, with multiple players taking video of Heinicke holding a beer and wearing the jewelry of many of his teammates.

Rivera said he appreciated his players’ enthusiasm but reminded them they “haven’t arrived.”

“We’ve not arrived by any means, and I’m going to get on my young guys tomorrow because with the way they were celebrating in the locker room, the thing it shows is that this is the first time they’ve been there,” he said Tuesday. “People tell you, ‘Act like you’ve been there’ — well, I’m going to give them a little grief for that. I get it. I appreciate the energy and the excitement. Now we have to understand: Act like you’ve been there, because now they’ve been there.”

Goodell wrote in his memo Friday that the policy “has been in place for many years” and added: “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.”

Downing was charged with driving under the influence and speeding early Friday morning after the team returned to Nashville following its victory Thursday night at Green Bay.

“We have been in contact with the Titans regarding the matter which will be reviewed,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. “All league and club personnel, including coaches, are subject to potential discipline when a violation is determined to have been committed.”

Titans Coach Mike Vrabel declined to answer reporters’ question Friday about the incident while saying that coaches and players “have a great responsibility as members of this community.”

Of potential discipline being imposed on the Titans, McCarthy said: “We are reviewing the matter with the Titans.”

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