November 27, 2021

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Green Bay Packers v Jacksonville Jaguars

Aaron Rodgers violated COVID protocol by holding indoor press conferences without a mask

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The NFL won’t come out right and say that. Then again, the NFL doesn’t have to do that.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers Held face-to-face press conferences at the Green Bay facility without wearing a mask. Because he wasn’t secretly vaccinated, Rodgers broke the rules.

The rules come directly from the regular season COVID protocol, which was approved by the NFL and NFL Players Association. Here is the operative sentence: “All players and staff who have not been fully vaccinated must wear masks (surgical masks preferred; masks and masks with valves or vents are prohibited) at all times when inside the club facility.”

Since the interview rooms are located in the club premises, unvaccinated players must wear masks in the interview rooms. Rodgers didn’t do that consistently.

Packers will probably say they don’t have to enforce league protocols; The league may vary. As NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy told PFT earlier tonight, “The primary responsibility lies with the club, which can sanction a player or individuals.” If the team doesn’t discipline Rodgers for his violations of league protocols, the Packers will have a big problem — and other teams already care.

As one source explained to PFT on Wednesday, the league cannot monitor every team for compliance by every unprotected player. If the Packers don’t fine Rodgers for not wearing a mask during press conferences at the facility, Green Bay will be (or at least should) get beaten up by the league’s office.

Other questions become relevant. Will the NFL be as aggressive with the Beams as they are with, say, the Saints or the Patriots? How close/was NFL General Counsel Jeff Bash with Packers CEO Mark Murphy? (As one source told PFT on Wednesday, they are good friends.)

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Presumably, the league didn’t want to make the biggest story of the week even bigger by publicly admitting that Rodgers was violating protocols and/or that the Packers failed to discipline him. However, there is a good chance the Packers may have given Rodgers a pass given the broader pressure and tension on the relationship. If they do, will the NFL give Green Bay a pass, too?

The NFL is certainly hoping the next wave of bright, shiny objects will draw attention away from this problem, starting with the Jets-Colts Thursday night. But with the MVP out for at least 10 days, it won’t go away. And when he finally returns and speaks to the media, he will be interested to know what he says, how he says it, and how various circles in the media react to him.

Separately, it will be very interesting to see what the league does about all of this, given the way the league has beaten other teams for other violations.