Aaron Rodgers just handed Jordan Love an opportunity to replace him in 2022
Those are some deft words from a deft quarterback. And now they’re at the center of a study into Aaron Rodgers, who we all learned is reportedly COVID-19 positive and in the league’s 10-day testing protocol for unvaccinated players. The two-pronged revelation has put the Packers in an awkward spot, while also putting Rodgers in an echo chamber of criticism he was likely trying to avoid over the past three-plus months.
That’s a lot to unpack in only one day, which is why this is going to end up being a multipart play that is just beginning for the Green Bay Packers quarterback.
Let’s begin with Act 1, which was Rodgers stating that he had been “immunized” when the specific question was “are you vaccinated?” There's a game to be played inside that language when it comes to deciphering whether it was a lie. To some, Rodgers didn’t say he was vaccinated. He stated exactly what his status was and reporters assumed it meant he’d gotten the shot. And he never bothered to correct the assumption. To others, that’s a lie of omission, one that Rodgers purposely meant to engage in. It helped him avoid the scrutiny that befell guys like Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, former New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton and Buffalo Bills wideout Cole Beasley. You know those guys, the players who were either fully transparent about their status, or in the case of Newton, didn’t play word games to keep people from knowing the truth about his COVID protection.
During the preseason, Cousins got raked in Minnesota and pitted against his head coach for his vaccine status. Newton got blasted in New England for tripping on the daily COVID testing regimen and then ultimately was cut in a move that looked suspiciously like it was tied to his lack of vaccination. And Beasley was warring with seemingly everyone on social media on a daily basis over it. Not once in all of those messy situations was a player caught pretending to be something he wasn’t. Nor were any of them answering questions about unvaccinated players as if they were part of that group. Today, Rodgers can’t say that. That puts him on his own island.
Now consider Act 2. This one is short and sweet and it began Wednesday, when the Packers were informed that the league would be “reviewing” Green Bay’s adherence to the league’s COVID protocols. That’s another way of saying the Packers are going to be investigated. It's another way of the league saying, "We’re going to be reviewing the security tapes to see if Rodgers was actually following protocols in the building." What an awesome birthday gift for head coach Matt LaFleur on Wednesday. Not to mention a treat for general manager Brian Gutekunst, whose strained relationship with Rodgers was a centerpiece of his tiff with the team last offseason. Nothing like the league popping your hood in November, when you’re 7-1 and holding the NFC’s No. 1 playoff seed. That’s not a distraction, right?
All of this takes us to Act 3. We’ll call it the "Finale Of Opportunity and Excuse." This is where the production gets really interesting because Rodgers just gave Jordan Love an opportunity he never should have had. Not only two weeks of first-team practice snaps while Rodgers sits to the side in his 10-day purgatory, but also at least one game against the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend. And maybe a second against the Seattle Seahawks the following week. For a front office that has wanted to get a look at Love, there will be no better snapshot than the next 10 days, all showcasing what life would be like preparing him to be the starter in a meaningful situation. Not to mention giving fans a sneak preview of what could be in the pipeline. That’s the opportunity. And on the other side of it is the excuse. The one Gutekunst will have if Love flourishes inside this window. If the front office has indeed been planning to write Rodgers out of the team’s future plans, he may have just handed it a quill and ink.
What this is all about — if we remove the arguments about vaccine mandates and scrutiny — is that Rodgers knew months ago that not getting the shot was putting him at risk of getting forced into this 10-day purgatory. And that this 10-day purgatory could cost him at least one game and possibly two. The latter would have definitely happened if Rodgers had tested positive for COVID on Thursday instead of Wednesday. Despite all of that knowledge he decided against it. Now the Packers are eight games into a season where their home-field advantage might be decided by a single game. And he has put himself into a position where he’ll be missing one.
That decision matters, particularly in a season when he spoke about coming back to the team and being there for the guys in the locker room. Well, Jordan Love is that guy for a spell. The dance card is his, and the locker room has been immunized from Rodgers for the interim. And the roots of a future without Aaron Rodgers may go a little deeper because of it.