A reporter asked Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in August if he had been vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Yeah, I’ve been immunized,” he replied.
It turns out there was more to the story than that.
After Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed to the USA TODAY Network that the nine-time Pro Bowler has not, in fact, been vaccinated. Because they were not allowed to discuss the matter publicly, the person was granted anonymity.
Rodgers’ vaccination status means he will be sidelined until at least Nov. 13, knocking him out of Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs and putting into question his availability for the Packers’ subsequent game against the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 14.
It also raises questions about whether Rodgers, 37, has been adequately following COVID-19 protocols.
Under those protocols, which were approved by the NFL and NFL Players Association over the summer, unvaccinated players are subject to more stringent rules than vaccinated players. They must wear masks at all times while in Club facilities, including when they exercise in the weight room. They are subject to daily PCR testing. They are prohibited from being within six feet of unvaccinated players when they travel or eat meals.
Rodgers has been tested for COVID-19 on a daily basis, according to another person with knowledge of the situation. It is not clear if he has followed the regulations.
Rodgers has not worn an mask while speaking to members of the media at news conferences, which are held inside the team facility. A video of Rodgers attending a Halloween party with other Packers players has been circulated via social media. In the brief footage, Rodgers is not wearing a mask.
NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy said the league is “aware of the current situation in Green Bay and will be reviewing with the Packers. “
“The primary responsibility for enforcement of the Covid Protocols within Club facilities rests with each Club,” he said in a statement. In the past, individual Clubs have been disciplined for failing to enforce the protocols. “
When asked Wednesday if he is confident that the Packers and its players had complied with the league protocols this season, coach Matt LaFleur said: “In our building? Yes. “
LaFleur declined to comment on Rodgers’ vaccination status or how long the quarterback is expected to be out, but he confirmed that Jordan Love will start Sunday.
Third-string quarterback Kurt Benkert is also on the COVID-19 list.
“I think everybody has to make their own personal decision,” LaFleur said when asked generally about players’ decisions to get the vaccine. It’s what it is. “
Rodgers’ positive test for COVID-19 is the latest in a string of positives that have impacted the Packers, who are sitting atop the NFC at 7-1.
Star wide receiver Davante Adams and defensive coordinator Joe Barry are among those who missed the team’s most recent game against the Arizona Cardinals due to COVID-19. Allen Lazard, another wide receiver, was forced to sit out 10 days because he is not vaccinated, according to reports.
While Rodgers used the word “immunized” rather than “vaccinated” in his August news conference, he at least facilitated the impression that he had received the vaccine.
“You know, there’s a lot of conversation around it, around the league, and a lot of guys who have made statements, not made statements, owners who’ve made statements,” Rodgers said. Rodgers said, “There are guys on the team who haven’t had their vaccines.” It’s an individual decision. I won’t judge these guys. There are COVID-infected men who have been vaccinated. It’s an interesting topic. “
When asked in a follow-up question if he got the shot for competitive reasons, Rodgers didn’t dispute the characterization.
“… He said that he likes to know everything about what he’s doing. There was much research involved in that. However, I mentioned that there have been positive tests and I believe it’s not just vaccinated individuals. It will be interesting to see what happens next. “
Under the NFL-NFLPA protocols, unvaccinated players are subject to a fine of $14,650 if they refuse to wear a mask or maintain physical distancing in club facilities or during travel, with repeat violations leading to “increased discipline, including for conduct detrimental with a maximum fine amount equal to one week’s salary and/or suspension without pay for a period not to exceed four (4) weeks. “
Unvaccinated players can also face fines if they appear in crowded off-the-field settings, including bars, night clubs, concert halls and gatherings of more than 15 people in which masks are not being worn.
Contributing: Mike Jones, Tom Silverstein and Ryan Wood
Contact Tom Schad at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.