National Sports

Aaron Rodgers tests positive for coronavirus, is considered unvaccinated under NFL rules

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the NFL’s reigning Most Valuable Player, tested positive for the coronavirus and will miss Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs while in isolation for at least 10 days, according to multiple people familiar with the situation.

Rodgers was told in August that he was considered unvaccinated under the protocols developed by the league and the NFL Players Association, one of those people said Wednesday, after Rodgers had raised an issue regarding his vaccination classification. That person said there was dialogue between the NFL and the players’ union about the issue before a final determination was made.

Another person with knowledge of the case suggested that Rodgers may have been interested in a homeopathic-medicine alternative to vaccines. In late August, Rodgers responded to a question about his vaccination status by saying that he was “immunized.” He was not available to comment Wednesday.

The 37-year-old quarterback has been undergoing daily coronavirus testing, one of the people familiar with the situation said, as required under the protocols this season only for unvaccinated players. It was not immediately clear whether Rodgers had adhered to all of the other requirements for unvaccinated players, which include strict mask-wearing provisions. The NFL said it will review whether the protocols were followed properly.

“The primary responsibility for enforcement of the Covid protocols within club facilities rests with each club,” the league said in a written statement issued through a spokesman. “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 the matter with the Packers.”

Under the sport’s coronavirus protocols, an unvaccinated player must remain in isolation for at least 10 days following a positive test result. The player, if asymptomatic, can return to the team setting after that 10-day isolation. A vaccinated player can return to the team setting sooner, without a mandatory 10-day isolation, by remaining symptom-free and having two negative test results 24 hours apart.

One of the people familiar with the case said that Rodgers can rejoin the Packers after his 10-day isolation if he remains symptom-free, also confirming Rodgers’s unvaccinated status.

Packers Coach Matt LaFleur, speaking to reporters at a news conference in Green Bay, Wis., declined to discuss details of Rodgers’s positive test or vaccination status. LaFleur said that Rodgers “won’t be available this week” and that backup quarterback Jordan Love will start Sunday’s game on the road against the Chiefs.

When Rodgers told reporters in August that he was immunized, he added that he would not “judge” unvaccinated players. Asked Wednesday whether that had been a misleading statement by Rodgers, LaFleur said: “That’s a great question for Aaron. I’m not going to comment on it.”

LaFleur said he informed other Packers players during a team meeting Wednesday morning of Rodgers’s positive test result.

“I said, ‘Hey, it’s a great challenge. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. And we all have to prepare to the best of our ability to go down there and get a win,’ " LaFleur said. “And that’s the mind-set. They’re not going to postpone or cancel the game.”

Packers third-string quarterback Kurt Benkert reportedly tested positive for the virus earlier this week. Benkert was placed on the Packers’ covid-19 reserve list and appeared to confirm his positive test for the virus on social media.

That left Love as the only available quarterback on the Green Bay roster. LaFleur said that the Packers would add a quarterback.

Green Bay wide receivers Davante Adams and Allen Lazard were on the covid-19 reserve list and missed the team’s victory at Arizona last Thursday night. Adams reportedly tested positive. Lazard reportedly was placed in quarantine after being identified as a high-risk close contact. Under the protocols, only unvaccinated players are subject to such five-day contact-tracing quarantines.

Joe Barry, the Packers’ defensive coordinator, also missed the game in Arizona under the protocols. He reportedly tested positive for the virus. All coaches and team staffers leaguewide must be vaccinated to retain their right to work closely with players, under the protocols.

LaFleur said he was “absolutely” confident that all protocols have been followed properly within the Packers’ facility all season.

“I watch what these guys do,” LaFleur said. “I can only speak to our football space. . . . We’ve got cameras everywhere, I know. I think our guys do an outstanding job with it. It’s unfortunate. It’s not like this thing can’t happen to anybody. It’s happened to a lot of people outside of this building.”

There is no vaccine mandate for NFL players. Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said last week that 94.1% of players leaguewide were vaccinated, and that the league and NFLPA still hope to achieve a 100% vaccination rate. Sills said the NFL’s protocols are working well this season but the league, in his view, had to remain vigilant without giving any immediate consideration of relaxing restrictions. The NFL has not postponed any games this season due to coronavirus-related issues.

“It’s the time of the season, right?” LaFleur said. “I know a lot of people even around Green Bay that are going through this right now, both vaxxed and unvaxxed. And so it just is what it is.”

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