Column: Rodgers ‘audible’ on vaccine not the right call

Nov 3, 2021, 12:51 PM | Updated: Nov 4, 2021, 12:53 am
Seahawks Packers Aaron Rodgers...
Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers is shown during a game against the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 28. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

There are some potentially serious problems with the “unvaccinated-Aaron Rodgers-has-COVID-19” story, so let’s get the funny business out of the way first.

When reporters asked the Green Bay Packers quarterback back in August whether he’d been vaccinated, he replied, “Yeah, I’ve been immunized.”

Not exactly. Rodgers may have won “Celebrity Jeopardy!” a half-dozen years ago, but he’s no more a medical doctor than Julius Erving was. Otherwise, he would have known better.

So be charitable and give Rodgers the benefit of the doubt. Assume he really believed whatever cockamamie home remedy some friend whipped up afforded him the same immunity against the virus as the vaccine.

But that’s not what he said. And what he said next sure made it sound that by “immunized” Rodgers meant he’d gotten the jab.

“There’s guys on the team that haven’t been vaccinated. I think it’s a personal decision,” he added. “I’m not going to judge those guys.”

That helps explain why most people were surprised by reports Wednesday that Rodgers tested positive, which can happen to anyone, but even more surprised to learn he wasn’t vaccinated. Raise your hand if you were surprised to find out Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur was not one of them.

LaFleur deftly sidestepped a question Wednesday about whether Rodgers’ “immunization” remark from August was misleading, saying, “It’s a great question for Aaron. I’m not going to comment on it.”

The third-year coach also refused to confirm Rodgers’ positive test result or his vaccination status, but did acknowledge his star player was in the NFL’s COVID-19 protocol, which mandates 10 days away from the team.

Rodgers will miss Sunday’s game against Kansas City, but the Packers are 7-1 with a 3 1/2-game lead in their division. Plus, Jordan Love, his backup and Green Bay’s first-round draft pick in 2020, gets the chance to gain some much-needed seasoning and if all goes well, Rodgers will be back in time for the week after against Seattle. So what’s the big deal?

That could depend on what the Packers know and when they knew it.

According to NFL Media, Rodgers requested an exemption from the COVID-19 protocol sometime this summer based on his antibody levels, and was denied after an infectious disease specialist appointed by the league and the players’ union found no proof of protection against the virus. Technically, then, he was unvaccinated and thus subject to some tough restrictions.

Those range from daily testing to mask-wearing to a potential five-day quarantine just for crossing paths with someone who tests positive and Rodgers, as anyone who checks sports and entertainment websites even occasionally knows, gets around.

Last week, two of his receivers – All-Pro Davante Adams and Allen Lazard – and Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry were in the protocol and missed the win over Arizona. On Tuesday, third-string quarterback Kurt Benkert went on the COVID-19 reserve list. A day later, cornerback Isaac Yiadom joined Rodgers’ on the stay-home-from-work list for Week 9.

“I watch what these guys do,” LaFleur said, insisting the club has followed the league’s guidelines throughout. “I can only speak to our football space, but yeah, absolutely. We’ve got cameras everywhere. I think our guys do an outstanding job with it.”

Maybe. But not long after LaFleur finished talking, NFL officials said they planned to look for themselves. League rules allow vaccinated players who test positive to return after two negative tests taken at least 24 hours apart; unvaccinated players testing positive must isolate for at least 10 days.

“The primary responsibility for enforcement of the COVID protocols within club facilities rests with each club,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement. “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 big sports in general, and the NFL in particular, have done a very good job of managing the pandemic, largely by adopting strict guidelines and refusing to wink or nod whenever somebody refuses to play by the rules. That’s why Kyrie Irving is watching Brooklyn Nets games from his couch instead of a basketball court, and why Nick Rolovich, after just 11 games in charge, became the ex-head coach at Washington State less than a month ago.

Neither was vaccinated, but they didn’t claim to be “immunized,” either. Whether that’s a distinction without a difference remains to be seen.

___

More AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Iran's head coach Carlos Queiroz reacts during the World Cup group B soccer match between Wales and...
Associated Press

Queiroz slams Klinsmann’s criticism of Iran’s World Cup team

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Iran’s soccer federation and national team coach Carlos Queiroz have angrily hit back at former Germany great Jürgen Klinsmann for saying that Iranian World Cup players use dirty tactics because its in their “culture.” Both the federation and Queiroz on Sunday called for Klinsmann to resign from FIFA’s technical study group, […]
1 day ago
France's Raphael Varane, second right, goes for a header during the World Cup group D soccer match ...
Associated Press

Varane’s return lifts French mood even higher at World Cup

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Kylian Mbappe’s goals took defending champion France into the knockout round of the World Cup. Raphael Varane’s return gave the French camp an added reason to celebrate. The pre-tournament injury blues are fading, Les Bleus are feeling upbeat again and looking like one of the tournament favorites. Mbappe’s two goals in […]
1 day ago
Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium is seen after owners the Glazer family announced they are ...
Associated Press

Why are Man United and Liverpool suddenly on the market?

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — English soccer’s two most storied teams are suddenly in play. Manchester United has joined great rival Liverpool in opening its doors to a potential buyout that could be the biggest in sporting history. Following the sale of Chelsea in May, it sets up the prospect of three of the biggest Premier […]
1 day ago
Costa Rica's Yeltsin Tejeda, right, tries to block a shot from Japan's Wataru Endo during the World...
Associated Press

Costa Rica rallies late to beat Japan 1-0 in Group E

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — Keysher Fuller scored in the 81st minute to lift Costa Rica to a 1-0 victory over Japan on Sunday, leaving both teams with three points after two games in Group E of the World Cup. Fuller took advantage of a defensive error when Japan failed to clear the ball and […]
1 day ago
South Korea's Son Heung-min adjusts a mask during the South Korea's official training on the eve of...
Associated Press

Ghana readies for South Korea after opening World Cup loss

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Ghana coach Otto Addo has been impressed with Son Heung-min ever since he coached the South Korean forward at the youth level. The two will be reunited on Monday when Ghana meets South Korea in a World Cup Group H match at Qatar’s Education City Stadium. Atto was an working for […]
1 day ago
Mexico's Jesus Gallardo reacts at the end of the World Cup group C soccer match between Argentina a...
Associated Press

Goalless Mexico on brink of World Cup elimination

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Mexico’s inability to score — or stop Lionel Messi — has put the team on the edge of missing the knockout stage at the World Cup for the first time since 1978. Mexico has gone without a World Cup goal for 384 minutes since their second group stage match at the […]
1 day ago
Column: Rodgers ‘audible’ on vaccine not the right call