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Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers says he didn’t lie, details decision to not get vaccinated

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — 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 on Wednesday, is considered unvaccinated by the NFL and is in a 10-day minimum quarantine that will keep him out of the Green Bay 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 the NFL to be considered vaccinated but lost that appeal.

“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.”

When 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, the 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 that he should qualify as vaccinated but said he’s 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 symptoms on Tuesday and tested positive the next day. He did not feel well on Thursday but said he felt much better on 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.”

Aaron Rodgers

The Packers and the NFL 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.”

However, a league source said no doctor from the league or the jointly agreed upon infectious disease consultants ever communicated with Rodgers. The NFL received an inquiry in mid-August from the Packers medical staff on behalf of a player seeking to be considered fully vaccinated after undergoing an alternate treatment, a source said. The name of the player seeking the exemption was never provided, making it anonymous. The NFL Players Association was told that the league doctor would be available for further discussion with the player, but the doctor was never contacted, sources said.

“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.”

Rodgers also said the NFL sent in 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 afterwards, 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 NFL Players Association. The person who met with Green Bay never identified himself as a doctor.

Packers star 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 head coach Matt LaFleur said Friday that he had not heard Rodgers’ interview and didn’t plan to listen, but said 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. When 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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Potential No. 1 pick Kayvon Thibodeaux to declare for NFL draft, skip Oregon Ducks’ bowl game

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Star Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux is declaring for the NFL draft, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Monday.

Thibodeaux will not play in the Ducks’ bowl game, a matchup against No. 16 Oklahoma in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29, and instead will start preparing for the draft, sources said.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has Thibodeaux rated No. 1 overall in his latest Big Board. Fellow ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has him as the No. 2-rated prospect in this year’s draft class.

The 6-foot-5 Thibodeaux was the Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2019 and a first-team All-Pac-12 selection last year after arriving at Oregon as the No. 1-ranked player in the class of 2019. He played 10 games this season — an ankle injury slowed him up early — and finished with seven sacks and 49 total tackles.

Thibodeaux was also at the forefront of players’ ability to capitalize on their name, image and likeness. He signed a handful of deals, including one with Ebay, another with United Airlines and a six-figure memorabilia deal. He also released an NFT in partnership with Nike founder Phil Knight and sneaker designer Tinker Hatfield that sold for $100 per unit. In September, he launched his own cryptocurrency called $JREAM.

Thibodeaux’s early exit came on the same day Mario Cristobal left Oregon to take the head-coaching position at Miami.

Information from ESPN’s Paolo Uggetti was used in this report.

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New York Giants QB Daniel Jones (neck) unlikely to play vs. Los Angeles Chargers, sources say

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — After further visits with team doctors and specialists to have his neck injury evaluated, New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is unlikely to play Sunday vs. the Los Angeles Chargers, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Jones missed Sunday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins. He was injured the previous week in a win over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants (4-8) remain hopeful he won’t miss much more time and will return this season.

Mike Glennon started in Jones’ place on Sunday, but was diagnosed with a concussion after the contest. That puts newly acquired quarterback Jake Fromm potentially in line to start against the Chargers. It only adds to questions about whether Jones has done enough in his first three professional seasons to convince the Giants — and potentially a new general manager — that he is a true franchise quarterback they should build around.

Fromm, a University of Georgia standout, was signed off the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad last week. He has never played in an NFL game and could be making his first start 11 days after joining the team.

“It’s the beauty of the NFL. It’s next man up. Jake is getting his opportunity,” said Giants left tackle Andrew Thomas, who was also his teammate at Georgia. “I’m excited for him to get his chance. But like I said, next man up, and we’re doing everything to help him.”

The Giants also have former Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke on their practice squad. He seems to have been immediately jumped by Fromm on the depth chart.

Judge said that Fromm would be next in line this week at practice with Jones and Glennon sidelined. The Giants might still add additional contingencies.

“We’re talking internally about a lot of options personnel-wise to see what we can do and build in depth for a multitude of reasons,” coach Joe Judge said.

Judge said after the game in Miami that Glennon would remain the starter if healthy while Jones remained sidelined. But Glennon’s status is in doubt and might not be decided until late this week.

He’s currently in the concussion protocol.

“The optimistic view would be to have [Glennon] ready for the game on Sunday,” Judge said during a Monday afternoon conference call from Arizona, where the Giants are practicing this week.

New York is also dealing with COVID-19 issues. Offensive lineman Wes Martin and quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski tested positive on Monday, per Judge.

Martin was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday afternoon. Schuplinski was involved in meetings virtually throughout the day as the Giants try to get Fromm coached up quickly for a potential start.

Having Fromm start would provide some limitations.

“For a guy who has only been in your system for a couple days, you have to go ahead and select more of a menu what he can operate with in a game,” Judge said. “That is not always based on what he’s capable of with his ability, it’s just based on being new in a scheme and system and what he’s comfortable going out there and playing aggressively and making the right decisions within.”

Fromm has crammed hard since joining the Giants. He stayed after practice on Friday last week and did extra work with Jones there to provide input.

The fifth-round pick by the Buffalo Bills last year has made a positive first impression.

“He’s an intelligent guy. He’s demonstrated that already,” Judge said. “He has very good poise out there and he has a very good presence. Once thing that is very impressive about this guy is you talk to former teammates of his, like we did before he got in here, most of those Georgia guys, and every single one lit up and said we’d absolutely love to have that guy on the team.”

The bar won’t be especially high. The Giants failed to score a touchdown on Sunday in Miami. They have one touchdown in the two games since offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was fired.

Glennon went 23-of-44 for 187 yards with an interception against the Dolphins.

Jones has completed 64.3% of his passes for 2,428 yards with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season.

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New Orleans Saints WR Deonte Harris suspended three games; DE Cameron Jordan put on COVID-19 list

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METAIRIE, La. — The hits keep coming for one of the NFL’s most depleted rosters.

New Orleans Saints receiver/kick returner Deonte Harris was officially suspended three games Monday for a summer DUI arrest after his appeal was unsuccessful. And defensive end Cameron Jordan was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list — putting one of the NFL’s longest iron man streaks in serious jeopardy.

Jordan has played in 172 consecutive regular-season games — the longest active streak of any nonspecialist in the NFL. He will need two negative tests 24 hours apart to be able to return in time for Sunday’s game at the New York Jets. Ironically, Saints linebacker Demario Davis would replace Jordan atop that list if he can’t play. Davis has played in 156 consecutive games.

Jordan, 32, has never missed a game since being drafted in the first round in 2011. He has four sacks this season and 98.5 in his career.

The Saints (5-7) are already thin at defensive end, with fellow starter Marcus Davenport having missed the past two games with a shoulder injury and veteran backup Tanoh Kpassagnon having been placed on injured reserve last week.

Their offense has also been seriously banged up during their current five-game losing streak — though they are hoping to get at least some from the group of running back Alvin Kamara and offensive tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk back from knee injuries this week.

Quarterback Taysom Hill will also be playing through the pain of a mallet finger injury in his right throwing hand and a partially torn plantar fascia in his foot.

The 24-year-old Harris, a third-year pro who has taken on a bigger role on offense this year, leads the Saints with 523 receiving yards and has three long touchdowns on 31 catches.

Harris’ DUI case was resolved earlier in November when he was sentenced to one year of supervised probation. Maryland court records show that Harris pleaded not guilty but agreed to the statement of facts in the police report. According to that police report, which was obtained by NOLA.com, Harris registered a blood alcohol content of 0.246% after driving more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit and swerving across three lanes of traffic on the interstate at 1:30 a.m.

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