NFL insider pocket book: Everybody’s accountable within the Aaron Rodgers saga, plus Geno Smith’s audition, Week 9 picks


By advantage of Aaron Rodgers’ crafty wordplay blowing up in his and the Packers‘ faces, the NFL goes to be compelled to hammer the group and the participant for ignoring its COVID-19 protocols for unvaccinated gamers.

It is a humiliation for a league that proudly navigated a whole common season and postseason final 12 months through the international pandemic, a league that loved being a frontrunner within the worldwide sports activities group for its response to the virus. Now one in every of its established faces — its reigning Most Precious Participant — has been caught face-naked violating the protocols on a weekly foundation with no obvious penalty but.

League sources have confirmed to me that Rodgers is unvaccinated and that the Packers knew Rodgers was unvaccinated. Many might have been fooled into believing Rodgers was vaxxed, however the group knew the deal all alongside.

“Yeah I have been immunized,” Rodgers instructed the media when requested if he was vaccinated in late August. “You understand, there’s lots of dialog round it, across the league, and lots of guys who’ve made statements and never made statements, house owners who’ve made statements. There’s guys on the group that have not been vaccinated. I believe it is a private choice. I am not going to evaluate these guys. There are guys that’ve been vaccinated which have contracted COVID. So it is an attention-grabbing situation that I believe we’ll see performed out the whole season.”

I am not so terribly involved that Rodgers misled the media. Sure, in fact, I would like gamers and coaches and interview topics total to be trustworthy with me. However there’s an underlying assumption in sports activities reporting that the coach or participant on the lectern will not be telling you the reality and nothing however the reality in that actual second. Rodgers shouldn’t obtain any punishment for deliberately deceptive/deceiving/mendacity to the media.

For the sake of argument, I am going to give Rodgers and the Packers the good thing about the doubt that he adopted the protocols for unvaccinated gamers — to the letter — on the group airplane, within the locker room, within the weight room and within the cafeteria. That he confirmed up for every day testing. That he did not collect in giant teams away from the power.

The place Rodgers has unequivocally been breaking protocol is in his weekly media availabilities. These press conferences are held contained in the group amenities and he has been and not using a masks in all of them.

From the joint NFL-NFLPA protocols: “All gamers and workers who are usually not totally vaccinated should put on masks (surgical masks are most well-liked; gaiters and masks with valves or venters are prohibited) always when contained in the Membership facility.”

Rodgers is lifeless to rights right here. There is no getting round it. He wasn’t actively consuming throughout his press conferences. They weren’t held outdoor. He is clearly in violation of protocols, and one violation alone is worthy of a high quality as much as $14,650. Repeat offenses may end up in a suspension as much as 4 video games.

The league suspended Tom Brady for 4 video games for “integrity of the sport” points, and even that may be debated to today. If well being and security of NFL gamers is the league’s prime precedence, would a participant violating the well being and security protocols rise to an identical stage of punishment? Someplace shut?

Maybe, however here is the rub: The league is culpable, too. The league noticed the maskless Rodgers in any respect these press conferences, and we all know that as a result of he recurrently makes information together with his media periods. They’d have recognized Rodgers was unvaccinated, and both did not put two and two collectively or did not hassle to care.

“The first accountability for enforcement of the COVID protocols inside membership amenities rests with every membership,” a press release from an NFL spokesman learn Wednesday evening. “Failure to correctly implement the protocols has resulted in self-discipline being assessed towards particular person golf equipment previously. The league is conscious of the present scenario in Inexperienced Bay and might be reviewing with the Packers.”

In that assertion, the NFL factors the finger squarely on the Packers. However … the league might and may have seen the blatant violations. Identical to the league might and may have seen the blatant violations with unvaccinated Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins, who speaks to the media contained in the membership amenities every week and not using a masks.

Not solely did the Packers proceed this ruse with Rodgers (as a result of they seat unvaccinated gamers on Zoom for interviews), however the league might have had the wherewithal to, on the very least, alert two of its golf equipment about their most outstanding gamers violating the protocols. It didn’t.

This can be a league that has partnered with the Facilities of Illness Management and Prevention to creator research on COVID-19 mitigation methods. It is a league that as lately as final week proudly touted its 94.1% vaccination fee amongst all gamers. It is a league that refused to bend its guidelines for the Denver Broncos final season when their quarterbacks had been shut contacts and compelled a large receiver to play an important place in all of sports activities.

The Packers knew and helped promote the deception. The league ought to have recognized, ought to have alerted the group and, upon repeated violations, ought to have punished Rodgers.

Now the league should resolve to what extent it punishes the Packers and Rodgers. A half-million greenback high quality just like the Saints and Raiders final 12 months? A lack of a Day 3 draft decide? Extra?

The league can not sq. its adherence to stringent insurance policies with ambivalence towards a star participant breaking protocol. Punishment will quickly come to Inexperienced Bay.

For the reason that begin of the 2018 season and persevering with via September of this 12 months, Geno Smith threw 9 passes in NFL regular-season video games. The previous way forward for the New York Jets had been relegated to backup obligation starting in 2015, and that continued via his time in Seattle behind Russell Wilson.

Smith, although, lastly acquired his second likelihood in Week 5 towards the Rams when Wilson left with a finger damage that also has him on injured reserve. Smith’s gone 1-2 because the starter, incomes his first win final week towards the Jaguars, whereas throwing 5 touchdowns and one interception this season to go together with his 103.0 passer score.

I spoke with Smith Thursday on SiriusXM NFL Radio’s “The Opening Drive” with co-host Ed McCaffrey, and he revealed simply how troublesome it has been to be on the bench for years.

“Actually it has been robust, man, tremendous robust. Realizing I can play, realizing that I am able to play, realizing that I can do lots of nice issues,” Smith stated. “I’ve watched lots of nice quarterbacks have nice seasons and I stated to myself, ‘Man that is not too far off from the place I may be given the chance.’ The truth is a few days are tougher than the others. For me recreation days are extraordinarily robust.

“I put together all week and I assist the starter, however I even have to organize myself. And then you definitely go on the market, you’re employed out within the weight room, you are hitting PRs within the weight room, you are within the classroom finding out and getting these examine hours in after apply and after conferences after which you do not get the prospect to showcase it on Sundays. That is robust.”

Keep prepared so you do not have to prepare: it is a mantra anybody enjoying within the NFL is aware of. It is more durable for a man like Wilson’s backup contemplating he had by no means missed a recreation in his total NFL profession till final month.

Smith has signed a sequence of one-year contracts since his rookie cope with the Jets ran out. If Wilson returns after the bye and this was his final likelihood to place some good movie on the market, I requested Smith how he believed his audition went. He stated activate the tape, hearken to what his teammates say, and groups across the league ought to have the ability to decipher for themselves.

“I’m and I’ve at all times stated this: I’m a starter on this league. And never simply any starter, I consider I can win lots of video games,” Smith stated. “We had actually three video games (Rams, Steelers and Saints) that got here all the way down to the wire, and I really feel if I had gotten extra reps and been with the fellows slightly bit extra, I actually suppose we pull these video games off. I am not making excuses however these are three actually good groups we performed and a subject purpose or two brief or a game-winning drive brief. If you are able to do that on this league you possibly can play for a very long time.”

Different notes

  • Deshaun Watson will stay a Houston Texan for the remainder of the season and we’ll do all this over once more in March. In case you missed it, here is my column from Tuesday on the gamble Houston has taken in not dealing Watson earlier than the deadline.
  • A Washington Soccer Workforce supply confirmed the group poked round on Payments backup quarterback Mitchell Trubisky earlier than the deadline, however a supply with the Payments instructed me Buffalo by no means got here near dealing Trubisky.
  • The Philadelphia Eagles sending a sixth-round decide to Denver for second-year cornerback Kary Vincent Jr. appeared a bit odd to me, particularly because the Broncos used a seventh rounder on him in final 12 months’s draft. However character issues in school, plus a COVID opt-out through the 2020 season, despatched Vincent down lots of draft boards. Philly believes in his worth and loves his pace.

Week 9 picks

Final week, with the flurry of reports, I did a stand-alone picks column. That, apparently, was a mistake. I took my 74-33 file into Week 8 and got here out 81-41. A horrible 7-8 week on your man there. We have to be higher than that. I took the Colts on “Thursday Evening Soccer.” To the picks!

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: CBS | Stream: Paramount+ (click on right here)

I liked the best way the Panthers well deployed Stephon Gilmore final week on Kyle Pitts, and I believe they’re going to discover his greatest matchup this week on third downs towards the Pats within the revenge recreation. Mac Jones is enjoying nicely, although, and I belief the group with the higher quarterback and coach in nearly all conditions.

The decide: Patriots

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: CBS | Stream: Paramount+ (click on right here)

There’s damage. There’s distraction. There’s “hasn’t but crushed a group with a profitable file.” All that’s going towards the Browns on Sunday within the AFC North conflict. But nonetheless, I can not consider Cleveland goes to be beneath .500 on the halfway level within the 12 months. I am choosing this one with my coronary heart and never my head, and I admit that.

The decide: Browns

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET
TV: Fox | Stream: fuboTV (click on right here)

Tyrod Taylor will begin for the Texans towards a Dolphins group that ought to have been sellers on the commerce deadline. Miami is essentially the most disappointing group in soccer and it is not notably shut.

The decide: Texans

Different video games



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