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A few thoughts on Aaron Rodgers...
The Green Bay Packers quarterback misled everyone. This is not a shock.
So, this is what “wisdom in silence” looks like. Got it.
Unless you were in a coma the last 24 hours, you’ve heard that Aaron Rodgers will be missing the Green Bay Packers’ game on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs because he tested positive for Covid-19. That’s not the main headline, of course. Rather, Rodgers led the world to believe he was vaccinated when, it turns out, he was not.
Jordan Love will now get his first NFL start.
Sadly, Twitter did not burst into flames yesterday. That would’ve been nice.
I suppose we should start with this: We know what’ll happen next.
Next week, long after everyone has averted their flickering eyes to a shiny new object in sports media, Aaron Rodgers will lounge back on friendly radio to explain this all away. Maybe he’ll apologize for being so slippery. Maybe not. He’ll crack a joke or two, mock a “hater” or two, and discuss the latest book he’s reading. The public response is likely being crafted as we speak.
Vaccinated. Not vaccinated. I’ll save that debate for other airwaves — Lord knows you’re inundated enough. The point here is that everyone’s seeing, again, how this “complicated fella” operates. He’s an absurdly talented quarterback who also happens to be obsessed with public image. What everyone else thinks means a great deal to this quarterback, which is why his weekly segment on Sirius XM often turn into a personal Festivus.
Terrified of the criticism that’d come with people knowing he refused the Covid-19 vaccine, Rodgers played everyone like a fiddle.
Save the “vaccinated” vs. “immunized” semantics and watch the interaction for yourself. Asked directly if he was vaccinated, Rodgers began with “Yeah,” declared himself “immunized,” then attempted to create separation between himself and those who choose not to be vaccinated.
When someone in the auditorium asked a follow-up question, assuming this meant Rodgers was vaccinated, Rodgers did not correct that assumption.
Instead, the ruse continued.
We can spend all night reading law books in an attempt to convince ourselves this is OK.
But let’s call it what it is: A lie.
Obviously, Rodgers wanted to lead everyone to believe he got the shot.
Obviously, he didn’t want the criticism that comes with the public knowing he wasn’t vaccinated because criticism — to any degree — hurts him. A common theme in the story I wrote for Bleacher Report two-plus years ago. Players and coaches and personnel men alike repeated how sensitive he is. At least we know where Cole Beasley, Kirk Cousins, Lamar Jackson, Carson Wentz and others stand. They chose to take whatever bullets came their way. Rodgers, on the other hand, received “homeopathic treatment” to “raise his antibody levels” and then tried to get this approved as a vaccine.
The NFL denied his request, meaning he was considered unvaccinated this 2021 NFL season.
Internally, this week’s bombshell may be no surprise to teammates. Maybe they’ve seen their quarterback walking around the facility in a mask and knew his status. Rodgers would, of course, be fine with that since there aren’t cameras around. And any teammate who’d dare to let such intel leave the building would be ostracized for life.
But when it’s showtime, when he’s either at the podium inside the Packers’ indoor media auditorium or on the sideline of a preseason game or dancing at a Halloween party on Instagram, you best believe that mask is off. Perception, sweet perception, is something Rodgers holds dear. He rips “cancel culture,” though acted here as if he’s very aware and scared of said cancel culture.
Just own it. Stand by your conviction.
When SI’s Albert Breer checked with the league to see if Rodgers was in violation of Covid-19 protocols, he said he was referred back to the rules “that unvaccinated players must be masked at all times inside team facilities — which includes press conferences.”
The Packers have even put other unvaccinated players on Zoom calls for interviews to adhere to the policy which means, we can only assume, Rodgers abides by his own set of rules at 1265 Lombardi Avenue. Team to team, city to city, whether or not players need to wear a mask at a presser seems to differ (SI also cited differing city ordinances) but the Packers’ policy has been pretty clear. Such is the deal the Packers cut back when they delayed this divorce in the summer. After being held hostage by Rodgers for six months, after being dragged into the public square and flogged via surrogates and anonymous sources all… offseason… long… the Packers still opened their arms wide open to him.
Rodgers was very close to retiring, returned, then punished management throughout a 31-minute press conference. And those arms only got wider.
Yeah, the Packers were going to win. He’s one of the best players in the sport. Ever. Production equals tolerance in professional sports. Always. The Packers decided to welcome any dramatics attached to the reigning MVP because he does such remarkable things on a football field.
Like lead a thrilling last-second win in Santa Clara.
Like hit Randall Cobb on third and 16 under heavy pressure in Cincinnati to tee up another game-winning field goal.
Like run in for a touchdown at Chicago and yell “I’ve owned you all my f-----g life!” to bird-flipping Bears fans. That’s where the Packers likely hoped any drama ended.
But with Rodgers, you figured something was bound to happen. Regardless of any sweet songs he’d sing into the mic, regardless of him pretending the offseason of discontent never happened, he wasn’t going to humbly be one of 53. He likely views himself as the No. 1 reason the Packers are a $3 billion company that can wave a magic wand and build a massive “Titletown District” across the street. Maybe he’s right, too.
What’s funny is that QB1 today is becoming the QB1 that once drove him mad. Back in Rodgers’ first three pro seasons, as a backup, he watched Brett Favre receive preferential treatment from the team and it pissed him off. Favre had his own parking spot right in the stadium, next to the head coach (Mike McCarthy) and general manager (Ted Thompson). He had his own locker, too, adjacent to the main oval-shaped room.
Rodgers vowed to be different back then and, to be one of the guys, even held his pressers as the starter right at his own locker instead of a podium.
Rodgers, let’s remember, was also quick to turn on close friend, Ryan Braun. He said in 2013 that the Milwaukee Brewers star lied to him about PED allegations. He appeared genuinely hurt.
"It doesn't feel great being lied to like that,” Rodgers said, “and I'm disappointed about the way it all went down."
As all the damning leaks meticulously trickled to the public — including Rodgers needing the GM in Green Bay fired — I thought president Mark Murphy, GM Brian Gutekunst and head coach Matt LaFleur should’ve made the same difficult decision Green Bay did in 2008 by moving on from a legend. What an unprecedented opportunity this was to land several first-rounders, second-rounders, players, anything they could’ve wanted, especially ahead of the 2021 draft.
If the rights to Trey Lance are netting a team three firsts and a third, just imagine what a league MVP could’ve fetched the Packers.
We also got the lowdown on Love for this story, too.
Yet, for one more shot at a ring, the Packers begged Rodgers to return, and he did. Win a Super Bowl, and I suppose this is all worth it. They’re one of, let’s say, eight teams realistically capable of winning it all, though history suggests Rodgers will lose in the NFC Championship Game.
When he does speak, he’ll say exactly what people want to hear. He’ll be throwing touchdowns and pumping his fist and F-bombing critics in no time.
People cheer on athletes who’ve done far worse than lie.
But despite that shiny new object around the corner — OBJ wants out! Patrick Mahomes isn’t himself! Thursday Night Football between the Jets and Colts! — let’s hope this latest episode reminds people that, while he is a Hall-of-Fame talent, Rodgers prefers to manipulate the public and bend the truth to his reality.
Whether he’s trying to get you to believe he’s vaxxed or taking an eraser to franchise history.
If Love plays well at Arrowhead Stadium, hey, the Packers just may allow themselves to see the big picture, too.