Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will miss Sunday's game at Kansas City after being placed in the NFL's COVID-19 protocol. Because he is considered unvaccinated, he must stay isolated for at least 10 days.
Here’s an explanation of the NFL’s protocols and a breakdown of Rodgers’ case:
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR KNOWING A PLAYER'S VACCINE STATUS?
Each of the 32 NFL teams. Players must submit proof of vaccination to the team, not to the league office.
WHAT IS CONSIDERED SUFFICIENT VACCINATION?
Players must take two shots of one of the approved vaccinations under NFL protocols — Pfizer or Moderna — or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson. As Dr. Allen Sills, the league’s chief medical officer, has explained, players who have been previously documented with having had COVID-19 could be considered protected with one shot of those vaccines.
There’s also the possibility of a player having antibody levels that show a previous case of the coronavirus, and they can receive one shot to be protected.
“We have very clear protocols on vaccination requirements and what can be considered as being fully vaccinated under those protocols,” Sills said.
NFL protocols, created in conjunction with the players' union, oversee not only team facilities but also stadiums, hotels and any travel arrangements.
DID THE NFL KNOW AARON RODGERS WAS UNVACCINATED?
Yes, as did the Packers and the NFL Players Association.
Rodgers approached the NFLPA during the summer seeking approval of the treatment he took, details of which have not been made public. Dr. Thom Mayer, the union's medical director, consulted with Sills and with infectious disease consultants jointly agreed upon by the NFL and the union. They determined that Rodgers' treatment did not meet the qualifications or protocols to be considered a vaccine.
Rodgers has been required to wear a mask at the Packers' facility and to follow protocols designed for unvaccinated players. He is one of about 5% of the league's players considered unvaccinated.
WILL ANYONE BE PENALIZED?
Very likely — if the NFL's investigation, which also includes looking into a Halloween party attended by Rodgers — finds violations of the protocols.
Most responsible would be the Packers for not eliminating any violations. They could be fined and stripped of draft choices. For example, the Las Vegas Raiders were fined $500,000 last year — when there were no vaccinations available — for breaking protocols. But no teams lost picks in the 2021 draft for COVID-19 violations.
Rodgers, naturally, could be sanctioned by the NFL, too. That probably would involve a fine rather than a suspension.
Sills has been very clear that enforcement of the protocols is “serious business.”