Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will miss his team’s trip to face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday due to Covid-19 protocols.
On Friday while appearing on “The Pat McAfee Show,” Rodgers said he had contracted Covid-19 and that he is unvaccinated against the virus – a revelation that has prompted criticism.
Having previously announced back in August that he was “immunized,” Rodgers went on to say on Friday that he was “in the crosshairs of the woke mob right now” over his vaccination status and that the media was on a “witch hunt” to find out which players were vaccinated.
In his absence, second-year quarterback Jordan Love will face the Chiefs.
“This is a huge unforced error by a man who has transcended football and wants to have a career … whether it’s hosting ‘Jeopardy!’ or on other parts of our culture,” CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan told “The Lead with Jake Tapper.”
“What a shock, what a surprise that this is the guy we thought was so smart and well-read and it turns out that he doesn’t even have the courage or the guts to say he wasn’t vaccinated, probably because he was fearful of that ‘woke mob.’”
Rodgers said he did not get vaccinated because he has an allergy to an ingredient in the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines and was scared about the possible side effects from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
In an interview with CNN, NFL Insider Ian Rapoport said Rodgers has been following NFL Covid-19 guidelines for unvaccinated players which require daily testing even on off days and the wearing of protective masks indoors.
However, Rapoport says the NFL will investigate how strictly the protocols have been implemented because Rodgers has been spotted not wearing a mask during some indoor press conferences with reporters at Lambeau Field. Unvaccinated players are required to wear masks at their club facility and while traveling.
“He has, in his words, been ‘immunized’ which is he’s sought a holistic or homeopathic treatment – very expensive treatment – to try to raise his antibody levels and then went to the NFL and the NFLPA (Players Association) and their joint doctors to get what is essentially an exemption,” Rapoport said.
“He tried to get them to say: ‘OK, because of where your antibody levels are, you are allowed to say that you are vaccinated.’ The NFL, the NFLPA and joint doctors did not allow that so he was officially ruled to be unvaccinated. That is the reality, that is why Aaron Rodgers, despite sort of leading the public to believe that he is vaccinated, his official status is that he did not receive the Covid-19 vaccination.”
NFL Covid-19 protocols state vaccinated players who test positive and remain asymptomatic are eligible to return after testing negative twice in a 24-hour span. Unvaccinated players are required to quarantine for 10 days and then test negative to return.
What fines could Rodgers face?
The NFL said it is reviewing the situation. A league spokesperson told CNN in a statement: “The primary responsibility for enforcement of the Covid Protocols within Club facilities rests with each Club.
“Failure to properly enforce the protocols has resulted in discipline being assessed against individual Clubs in the past. The league is aware of the current situation in Green Bay and will be reviewing with the Packers.”
The fines an unvaccinated player can face for breaching Covid-19 protocols can be steep.
Gathering outside of the team facility or team travel in groups of more than three players can result in a fine of $14,650.
Engaging in in-person meetings, practices and training activities outside of team facilities with other players or staff is also punishable by a $14,650 fine.
Attending an indoor nightclub, an indoor bar – the bar and nightclub both must have more than 10 people – a house gathering of more than 15 people, an indoor concert or another sporting event – unless the player is seated in a separated seating section, such as a suite or owner’s box, is wearing PPE, and there are no more than 10 people in that separate seating section – all without wearing protective equipment or masks, are punishable with a $14,650 fine.
Refusal to submit to testing results in a $50,000 fine, while repeat offenders of any protocols will be subjected to “increased discipline,” the NFL explains.
Brennan added: “(Rodgers) could be fined by the National Football League, but it’s a little slap on the wrist. He could also be suspended. The odds are that it will be more the Packers that are looked at and get some kind of a fine. My guess is it will be a fine.”
What next for the Packers?
With Rodgers in Covid-19 protocols and unable to play in Sunday’s clash against the Chiefs, the responsibility falls to Love to manage the team’s offense.
Filling in for the NFL’s reigning MVP is no mean feat. But doing so on your first NFL regular season start is even more difficult.
Love, who will make his first career regular season start in a raucous Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, has only played briefly since being drafted in the first round last year.
He didn’t feature in the 2020 season, but played in the fourth quarter of the Packers’ Week 1 blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints.
With a season under his belt and serious time spent on the practice fields, Love has earned the respect of the veterans in his locker room.
“You could see him settling in,” Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones said of Love’s transition over the summer from rookie to second-year player.
“You could see him getting comfortable and more confident each day and really getting an understanding of the offense.”
And Love will have a lot riding on his shoulders come Sunday, as the Packers look to win their eighth straight game to remain atop the NFC standings.
But it will be a baptism of fire for the 23-year-old: facing superstar QB Patrick Mahomes and his Chiefs as they look to win their second straight game in the hopes of resurrecting their season.