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NFL COVID-19 rules: What protocols must unvaccinated Aaron Rodgers follow, and when could he come back?

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The NFL went to great pains to outline COVID-19 protocols, with wildly different procedures for individuals identified as "fully vaccinated" and those who aren't. That's especially interesting now to Packers fans after word broke that Aaron Rodgers will miss Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs after going on the COVID-19 list.

Amid news that Rodgers was not identified by the NFL as vaccinated against COVID-19, he's subject to a 10-day wait even if asymptomatic before he can rejoin his teammates on the field or in the practice facilities. If he does have symptoms, at least 24 hours must have passed since a fever was last detectable (and other symptoms, such as shortness of breath, have improved). Additionally (for those vaccinated or unvaccinated), a player must show two negative COVID-19 tests 24 hours apart and get clearance from a team physician.

MORE: Aaron Rodgers isn't vaccinated, but did he break NFL COVID-19 protocols?

Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers reacts as he leaves the field after during the second half of an NFL football game against the Washington Football Team Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.
Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers reacts as he leaves the field after during the second half of an NFL football game against the Washington Football Team Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, in Green Bay, Wis.

That means Rodgers, at the earliest, will be available to return Nov. 13, the day before the Packers game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Star receiver Davante Adams missed the Arizona game on Thursday after being placed in COVID-19 protocol. Because he is vaccinated, he still could have played if he had received negative tests 24 hours apart, without a 10-day waiting period.

Active players are not subject to wearing a mask on the sideline at games, unless local government indicates otherwise. Players are also not required to wear a mask during outdoor practices (during stretching, warmups, walk-throughs) or in the "bubble" of a large indoor facility such as the Don Hutson Center. Players who aren't vaccinated must, however, wear masks for indoor walk-throughs.

Though Rodgers has been speaking at postgame news conferences without a mask, indoors and seemingly in violation of the rules, it's also worth noting that outspoken vaccine critic Kirk Cousins of Minnesota, who has said he's not vaccinated, has been doing the same.

Other NFL stipulations for unvaccinated players

  • Unvaccinated players must keep a distance of 6 feet from others inside team facilities, and lockers must be 6 feet apart as well (with Plexiglass dividers, if possible). Media have not been given access to locker rooms as part of the COVID-19 protocols this season.

  • Weight-room capacity is limited to 15 players when any unvaccinated player is present, and unvaccinated athletes must wear masks even when actively training.

  • Unvaccinated players are not permitted to participate in in-person meetings at the facility.

  • Unvaccinated players are prohibited from gathering in groups of more than three team-affiliated individuals outside the team facility (those in one of three Tiers outlined by the NFL) or during travel, including training activities, unless otherwise approved by both the NFL and NFLPA.

  • Unvaccinated players are not permitted to travel on the team charter, even with a religious or medical exemption, and must travel separately. They also must pass a COVID-19 test to rejoin the traveling party and must test daily thereafter during road trips. They cannot eat in the cafeteria. All players, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask during air travel and on buses.

  • Unvaccinated players cannot mingle with other members of the traveling party once they've arrived in a game city, including at the hotel. They also cannot use the pool or other common areas in the hotel unless the facilities are closed to other hotel patrons.

  • Those who are unvaccinated are designated as "high risk" close contacts when regarded as a close contact to another player or staff member on the team who tests positive. Those players must remain away from the team for five days even if asymptomatic (if symptomatic, it's the longer 10-day wait). This was the case for Allen Lazard when he was designated a close contact last week and missed the game in Arizona.

  • Those unvaccinated on the NFL sideline with bench access and are not active players must wear a mask, including inactive players and police officers or EMTs who are not in a municipal or government affiliated labor union (such as EMTs or police officers).

  • Unvaccinated players are tested every day, with vaccinated tested once per week.

  • Unvaccinated players are subject to fines for refusing to follow guidelines, including maintaining physical distancing or attending indoor events or gatherings of more than 15 people without masks.

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: NFL COVID-19 rules: What must Aaron Rodgers, unvaccinated players do?