The NFL won’t come right out and say it. Then again, the NFL doesn’t have to.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has been conducting in-person press conferences in the Green Bay facility without wearing a mask. Because he was secretly unvaccinated, Rodgers violated the rules.
The rules come straight from the regular-season COVID protocol, to which the NFL and NFL Players Association agreed. Here’s the operative sentence: “All players and staff who are not fully vaccinated must wear masks (surgical masks are preferred; gaiters and masks with valves or vents are prohibited) at all times when inside the Club facility.”
Because interview rooms are in the club facility, unvaccinated players must wear masks in the interview rooms. Rodgers consistently hasn’t.
The Packers possibly will say it’s not for them to enforce the league’s protocols; the league would disagree. As NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT earlier tonight, the “primary responsibility is on the club, which can discipline a player or personnel.” If the team wasn’t disciplining Rodgers for his violations of the league’s protocols, the Packers will have a major problem — and other teams already are paying attention.
As one source explained it to PFT on Wednesday, the league can’t monitor every team for compliance by every unvaccinated player. If the Packers didn’t fine Rodgers for not wearing a mask during press conferences in the facility, Green Bay will (or at least should) get whacked by the league office.
Other questions become relevant. Will the NFL be as aggressive with the Packers as they would have been with, for example, with the Saints or the Patriots? How close was/is NFL general counsel Jeff Pash with Packers CEO Mark Murphy? (As one source told PFT on Wednesday, they’re good friends.)
The league presumably doesn’t want to make the biggest story of the week even bigger by publicly acknowledging that Rodgers was violating the protocols and/or that the Packers failed to discipline him. Still, there’s a decent chance that the Packers gave Rodgers a pass given the broader strain and stress on the relationship. If they did, will the NFL give Green Bay a pass, too?
The NFL is surely hoping for the next wave of bright, shiny objects to take attention away from this issue, starting with Jets-Colts on Thursday night. But with the reigning MVP out for 10 days at a minimum, it’s not going away. And when he finally comes back and talks to the media, it will be interested to see what he says, how he says it, and how the various constituencies in the media react to it.
Separately, it will be very interesting to see what the league does about all of this, given the manner in which the league has hammered other teams for other violations.