Two years ago, the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs were denied an Aaron Rodgers-Patrick Mahomes matchup. Mahomes injured his knee on a quarterback sneak a week prior to the teams’ 2019 game, requiring the Chiefs to start backup Matt Moore in his place.
In 2021, COVID-19 — and Rodgers’ apparent vaccination status — are the culprits that will deny NFL fans a chance to watch these two quarterbacks play. On Wednesday, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported that Rodgers has tested positive for COVID-19, which will result in him landing on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The report further goes on to indicate that Rodgers will miss Sunday’s game, setting off a firestorm about Rodgers’ COVID-19 vaccination status.
Vaccinated players have the opportunity to return from the list if they are asymptomatic and test negative twice, 24 hours apart. However, unvaccinated players are required to remain on the list for at least ten days, regardless of symptoms or subsequent negative tests. Following the initial report, Ian Rapoport issued a report that Rodgers is indeed unvaccinated, which seems to contradict Rodgers’ comments from earlier this season.
When asked directly in a press conference early in training camp on whether he was vaccinated, Rodgers replied “Yeah, I’ve been immunized,” which in retrospect is an odd choice of wording to describe his status given the directness of the question. Unless Rapoport’s reporting is mistaken — Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel beat writer Tom Silverstein has so far been unable to confirm Rodgers’ vaccine status — Rodgers lied or at best mis-represented his status to individuals outside of the Packers’ facility with that response.
Note that the NFL does not consider previous exposure to COVID-19 to be a sufficient substitute for vaccination.
In any case, the Packers will need to move forward Sunday’s game against the Chiefs with Jordan Love as their expected starting quarterback. They will also likely need to find a backup for Love, as practice squad quarterback Kurt Benkert also tested positive earlier this week. Blake Bortles is a free agent and could be a candidate to return to the Packers this week in that capacity after spending much of the offseason with the team.
UPDATES: Rapoport has since reported that Rodgers has indeed been following protocols for unvaccinated players during this season. Another report from ESPN’s Rob Demovsky indicates that Rodgers “petitioned the NFL to have an alternate treatment that he underwent ... to be considered the same as someone who received one of the approved vaccinations.” The NFL denied his petition and he has been following NFL protocols inside the team facility — except that he has not been wearing a mask when conducting press conferences with the media.
Stay tuned for more updates on this situation as it unfolds.