Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said he did not lie when discussing his vaccination status, has followed almost all protocols for unvaccinated players and explained his reasoning for not getting one of the traditional COVID-19 vaccines before this season.
Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, is considered unvaccinated by the NFL and NFL Players Association and is in a 10-day minimum quarantine that will keep him out of the Packers’ game Sunday at the Kansas City Chiefs.
In a 46-minute appearance on “The Pat McAfee Show,” Rodgers said he is allergic to an ingredient in two of the three approved vaccines — the ones produced by Moderna and Pfizer, known as mRNA vaccines. He confirmed that he underwent a treatment designed to raise his immunity and appealed to the NFL to be considered vaccinated but lost that appeal.
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“I believe strongly in bodily autonomy and the ability to make choices for your body, not to have to acquiesce to some woke culture or crazed group of individuals who say you have to do something,” Rodgers said during a lengthy rebuttal to what he suggested was misinformation reported over the past several days. “Health is not a one-size-fits-all for everybody, and for me it involved a lot of study in the offseason.”
Asked in August whether he was vaccinated, Rodgers said, “Yeah, I’ve been immunized.”
“First of all, I didn’t lie in the initial press conference,” Rodgers said Friday. “During that time, it was a witch hunt that was going on across the league, where everybody in the media was so concerned about who was vaccinated and who wasn’t and what that meant and who was being selfish and who would talk about it, what it meant if they said it’s a personal decision and they shouldn’t have to disclose their own medical information.
“And at the time, my plan was to say that I have been immunized. It wasn’t some sort of ruse or lie. It was the truth, and I’ll get into the whole immunization in a second. But had there been a follow-up to my statement that I’ve been immunized, I would have responded with this: I would have said, ‘Look, I’m not some sort of anti-vax, flat-Earther. I am somebody who’s a critical thinker.'”
Rodgers, 37, said that, because of his allergy, his only option for one of the approved vaccines was the Johnson & Johnson shot, which he said he was not comfortable taking because of reports of side effects.
He did not disclose the exact treatment plan that he underwent before he appealed to the NFL, the NFLPA and the jointly approved infectious disease expert that he should qualify as vaccinated but said he is taking ivermectin, zinc and monoclonal treatments.
“You know, my desire to immunize myself was what was best for my body, and that’s why this is so important to me,” Rodgers said. “My medical team advising me that the danger of an adverse event [to a vaccine] was greater than the risk of getting COVID and recovering. So I made a decision that was in the best interest of my body.”
Rodgers said he had COVID-19 symptoms Tuesday and tested positive the next day. He did not feel well Thursday but said he felt much better Friday.
“I have taken this very seriously. I’m not a COVID denier. … I just wanted to make the decision that was best for my body. That’s it.”
The Packers, the NFL and the players’ union have been aware of Rodgers’ status since shortly after he reported for training camp in July. He said he believed he would win the appeal until, according to him, one of the doctors involved in his appeal said: “It’s impossible for a vaccinated person to get COVID or spread COVID.”
“At that point, I knew that I was definitely not going to win the appeal, and it was very shortly thereafter denied,” Rodgers said. “And we know now that information is totally false that was given to me.”
A league source said no doctor from the league or the jointly agreed upon infectious disease consultants ever communicated with Rodgers. In mid-August, a member of the Packers medical staff inquired with the NFLPA medical director on behalf of a player who asked if the medical director would consider whether an alternative, homeopathic treatment could qualify the player as “fully vaccinated.”
Rodgers also said the NFL sent someone to speak to the Packers about vaccinations because at the time they were 19th among the 32 teams in vaccination rates.
“They sent in a stooge early in training camp to tell us we were 19th in the league in vaccination percentage,” Rodgers said. “I challenged some of the things he was saying, and afterward, I was thanked by a lot of coaches and players.”
League officials during training camp went from team to team to make sure they were aware of the protocols and laid out what was agreed upon by the league and the NFLPA. The person who met with the Packers never identified himself as a doctor.
Packers wide receiver Davante Adams, who was activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, said he isn’t passing any judgment on his quarterback.
“[He’s] a grown man. Everybody can, you know, it’s bigger than football, man,” Adams said. “It’s people’s lives that they’ve got to figure out what they’re comfortable with. There’s religion and all different types of things that go into it. So any question for Aaron and his vaccination status are better off left for when he talks to you guys.”
Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur said Friday that he had not heard Rodgers’ interview and didn’t plan to listen but that he doesn’t believe the comments will be a distraction.
“I think our locker room is totally focused on the task at hand. I think that’s always been the case,” LaFleur said. “I think they do a great job of worrying about playing football and then going out there and giving it our best effort.”
Rodgers detailed the protocols he has followed as an unvaccinated player, including daily testing and mask wearing around the team facility. He was not asked about his lifestyle away from Lambeau Field, where he has been photographed with multiple teammates. Protocols say unvaccinated players may not gather away from headquarters with more than three teammates or coaches.
However, Rodgers acknowledged that he does not believe he should have to wear a mask during news conferences. That he hasn’t is a violation of the protocols. He said he believes it’s unnecessary for an unvaccinated player who is tested for COVID-19 daily to wear a mask in a room full of reporters who have been vaccinated and are masked.
“I have followed every single protocol to a T — minus that one I just mentioned that makes absolutely no sense to me,” Rodgers said.
The NFL has said it was reviewing whether protocols were followed, and a source said whatever penalties are levied won’t include any suspension for Rodgers.
“I have taken this very seriously,” Rodgers said. “I’m not a COVID denier or any bulls— like that. I just wanted to make the decision that was best for my body. That’s it. I wear my mask when I go out in public. The only time I haven’t worn my mask is when I’m around all vaccinated people. My response to those people would be like, ‘Hey, just so you know, I tested this morning negative, No. 1, and No. 2, you got vaccinated against something that you would be worried about me having, which I just told you I’m negative.’ To me, I can’t make any more sense than that. If I’m in public, I wear a mask. If I’m not, if I’m at my house, I’m not wearing a mask.”
Rodgers is a spokesperson for Prevea Health, a local medical care group. Asked whether he would continue in that role, Prevea sent a statement: “Our focus at this time remains steadfast on the health and safety of our patients, providers, staff and communities; as well as on our efforts to help and encourage all eligible to become vaccinated for COVID-19 for the health and safety of all.”
The earliest Rodgers could return to the Packers is Nov. 13, the day before their game against the Seattle Seahawks. Jordan Love, the Packers’ 2020 first-round pick, will start Sunday against the Chiefs.
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