The news that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has tested positive for COVID-19, has not been vaccinated and will miss this weekend’s game against the Chiefs shocked the NFL world on Wednesday — and not just because he was in August. said he was already “immunized.” Since the training camp opened in late July, there had been no public observation of Rodgers following the obvious protocols for unvaccinated NFL players, as agreed this summer by the NFL and the NFL Players Association. The NFL is currently reviewing the situation with the Packers, according to a statement from the league on Wednesday afternoon.
So what’s going on here? Has Rodgers Misled Anyone About His Vaccine Status? Was he breaking NFL rules? Did the Packers or the league look the other way? What follows is our best effort to separate fact, assumption, and outright fiction in this evolving story. We explain what we now definitively know about the situation and run through the league’s protocols involved, possible fines that could be in play and when Rodgers could be back on the pitch for Green Bay.
Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday morning and the Packers confirmed that backup QB Jordan Love will start Sunday night’s game against the Chiefs. That sequence made it clear that Rodgers is not vaccinated.
Why is that?
Unvaccinated players who test positive must be isolated for at least 10 days, even if they are asymptomatic. However, vaccinated players can return after a positive test once they produce two negative tests 24 hours apart, as long as they are asymptomatic. In other words, Rodgers would at least have a chance to play Sunday if he was vaccinated.
Didn’t Rodgers say he was vaccinated?
New. In August, a reporter in Green Bay asked him if he had been vaccinated against COVID-19. He replied by partially saying, “Yes, I have been vaccinated.”
Is there a difference?
Nobody thought like that then. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines vaccination as “the act of introducing a vaccine into the body to protect against a specific disease.” The definition of immunization is “a process by which a person is protected from a disease through vaccination.”
So if you want to parse words afterwards, you might interpret Rodgers’ response as if he thought he was protected from COVID-19 without openly stating that he had received an approved vaccination.
Why did he think he was protected from COVID-19?
According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, Rodgers sought alternative treatment and requested the NFL to recognize him as vaccinated. The NFL declined, citing the plain language of the NFL-NFLPA agreement reached this summer.
What did that agreement on vaccination say?
It offered multiple avenues to “fully vaccinated” status. They include:
14 days after a two-shot regimen of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine
14 Days Past a Johnson & Johnson Vaccine One-Time Regimen
One injection of a vaccine, if the player also tested positive after August 26, will have a total antibody level of 100 U/ml or more and a positive antibody test against the COVID IgG nucleocapsid protein.
Failing any of the outcomes, Rodgers had to follow protocols for every other unvaccinated player.
What are those protocols?
Many of them are listed here. They include daily tests and the wearing of elevated masks, and they are generally nearly identical to the rules players and coaches followed during the 2020 season, before vaccines were available.
As others have noted, the NFL/NFLPA has brought together their various COVID-19 protocols for this summer. In short, there are very few rules for vaccinated people, while many of the 2020 rules apply to unvaccinated people. Cheat sheet: pic.twitter.com/0IPB8GP4xO
— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) June 16, 2021
Are those the only rules unvaccinated players should follow?
New. For example, an unvaccinated player should not get together in a group of more than three players, coaches and other members of the football operations staff.
Didn’t Rodgers come to a Halloween party dressed as John Wick?
Rodgers is definitely dressed as John Wick. Video of him dancing surfaced on teammate Marcedes Lewis’ Instagram story. In any case, it couldn’t be determined from that video whether the other people were teammates.
Don’t the protocols also say that unvaccinated players must wear masks at all times when indoors at the team facility or in the stadium on match days?
They do, and Rodgers hasn’t worn one during indoor press conferences with reporters at Lambeau Field, where the Packers practice and play games. In some cases, the Packers have interviewed unvaccinated players via Zoom, but Rodgers has all been in person.
Rodgers has not worn a mask on the sidelines during matches. Shouldn’t he?
The NFL-NFLPA rules changed this summer. Masks are only required for unvaccinated players at games when they are inactive, meaning they are not in uniform and are not eligible to play. Active players are encouraged but not required to wear masks unless required by local or state guidelines, according to current protocols. None of the four teams the Packers have played on the road so far have required active players to wear masks on the sidelines.
Did that include the preseason?
A reasonable reading of the protocols would suggest that, yes, preseason should be included. And Rodgers was out of uniform for one of the Packers’ three preseason games. But there are no playing day limits for preseason matches, so from a technical point of view there are no “inactive” players. For this reason, a source said, the league would not consider an unvaccinated player not in uniform for a preseason game as violating protocols if he was not masked.
Did the NFL discipline him for this?
At this time, the league has not yet responded to questions about it. The NFL has the option to fine players a minimum of $14,650 for first-time violations of violating COVID-19 protocols, with a maximum of $50,000.
Will Rodgers get paid while in isolation?
Yes. The only reason a game check can be lost is if an unvaccinated player causes an outbreak leading to a forfeit. In that case, no player from either team would be paid.
Well, it sure sounds like Rodgers has violated multiple COVID-19 protocols.
We’ll know soon enough. Ultimately, the Packers may face more guilt. The NFL issued a statement late Wednesday afternoon that “the primary responsibility” for enforcing COVID-19 protocols rests with the team, not the league. It pledged to “review the matter” and noted that teams have been disciplined for protocol violations in the past. Among the teams fined were the New Orleans Saints ($500,000), Las Vegas Raiders ($500,000), Tennessee Titans ($350,000), New England Patriots ($350,000), and Baltimore Ravens ($250,000). The Saints were also stripped of a seventh round draft pick, and the Raiders lost a sixth round.
How concerned should Rodgers and the Packers be?
The main thing to worry about is Rodgers’ health, both short-term and long-term. The best-case scenario is that he will rejoin the team the day before the Packers’ November 14 game against the Seahawks. So it is possible that he could miss two games, assuming that he tests negative and is asymptomatic after 10 days.
Chatter throughout the day Wednesday was about the surprise of Rodgers’ unvaccinated status, but the health of everyone involved should be the top priority.