The Aaron Rodgers situation has turned into a dicey one for the Green Bay Packers and that's because the NFL is now reviewing whether Rodgers violated any COVID protocols over the past few months. If the NFL finds that Rodgers did violate the league's protocols, then Rodgers and the team could both be staring at a potentially serious punishment.
For the Packers, the NFL has the right to fine the team or take away draft picks. Last season, there were multiple teams that got hit with big fines and the two most notable ones were the Raiders and the Saints. In New Orleans, not only did the Saints get fined $700,000 for multiple COVID violations, but they also got docked a sixth-round draft pick.
As for the Raiders, they got fined a total of $800,000 for multiple COVID violations and they also got docked a sixth-round pick, but that pick ended up being reinstated in March after the team appealed the decision (In both the Raiders and Saints cases, the teams were fined $500,000 with players and coaches paying out the rest of the fines).
Not only does the NFL have the power to hand out a hefty fine or take away draft picks, but the league has already proven that it's not afraid to use that power, which means it wouldn't be totally surprising if the NFL ends up punishing the Packers.
On Rodgers' end, he could also face a punishment if he was purposely disregarding COVID protocols. According to the protocols agreed to by the NFL and NFLPA, a player is generally fined $14,650 for a first offense, but if there are repeated offenses, they can be fined a total of one game-check. In the most serious of circumstances, a player could be suspended for up to four games for conduct detrimental to the team.
So did the Packers and/or Rodgers actually violate any rules? The simple answer seems to be yes.
Since Rodgers is unvaccinated, he is supposed to be wearing a mask whenever one of his press conferences is held indoors at the team facility.
Here is the actual rule from the NFL's covid protocol handbook: "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."
Rodgers has regularly been going maskless during his interviews, including back in August when he told the media that he was "immunized."
Rodgers might have been immunized, but he was never vaccinated.
So what's the difference? According to NFL.com, Rodgers "received a homeopathic treatment from his personal doctor to raise his antibody levels" and he was hoping that would be enough to give him the same status as a vaccinated player. However, the NFL shot down his request, so Rodgers is officially viewed as unvaccinated in the eyes of the league.
Although the mask rule seems to be the big one that Rodgers has disregarded, he also seems to have blatantly violated another rule. The Packers quarterback spent months making a big deal of his Halloween costume before showing it off over the weekend at a party that several of his teammates also attended.
Under NFL rules, an unvaccinated player isn't supposed to be at any event outside the team facility with more than three total players, "Unvaccinated Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 Individuals (including players) are prohibited from gathering in groups of more than three (3) Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 Individuals (including players) outside of the Club facility or team travel."
In this case, if there were four Packers players at the party, then Rodgers violated the rules. According to Packers offensive lineman Lucas Patrick, he saw both Marcedes Lewis and Bronson Kaufusi at the party and if you include Rodgers, that's a total of four players. It's also been reported that Jordan Love was at the party, which puts the number at five and based on social media, there might have been more than a dozen players in attendance, which would make this a major violation for Rodgers.
The NFL might not drop the hammer on Rodgers for going maskless at his press conferences, but it wouldn't be surprising if he's hit with a fine for the Halloween party. In 2020, Raiders tight end Darren Waller got fined $30,000 for going maskless at a charity event that he planned. Multiple other teammates, including Derek Carr, also got fined.
If anyone does get punished, it sounds like the Packers would receive the brunt of it. When the NFL announced that it was looking into the Rodgers situation, the league made sure to point out that it was up to each club to make sure their players were following COVID protocols.
"The primary responsibility for enforcement of the Covid protocols within club facilities rests with each club," the NFL said in a statement on Wednesday. "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."
The bottom line is that this is a situation that might get worse before it gets better for the Packers. Even if no one gets punished, Rodgers can't return until Nov. 13, which means if he wants to play in Week 10 against the Seahawks, he'll be playing the game after a week where he got zero practice time. Also, if Rodgers shows any symptoms, he could be out even longer, which means there's a chance he could miss two games (Weeks 9 and 10).