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Opinion: Aaron Rodgers was never right about COVID-19 – he's just been lucky this whole time

Nancy Armour

GREEN BAY, Wis. – The old saying is that it’s better to be lucky than good. Aaron Rodgers has the gift these days of being both.

Look, I’m glad Rodgers is fine. I’m glad he didn’t end up in an emergency room – or worse. I’m glad he had people to look in on him, bring him food and boost his spirits with their calls and messages. But when fans welcome him back like the prodigal son, when CBS downplays or ignores why he spent the last 10 days at home, I worry about the damage he has done and continues to do.

Rodgers’ bout with COVID was brief and not serious. His lie about being vaccinated, and his off-the-wall explanations for that choice, have cost him little. Even the Green Bay Packers' fall from the top of the NFC following the game Rodgers missed was short-lived.

And that is what makes this whole fiasco so troubling: Rodgers got lucky, and he continues to be lucky.

It is true that most people who have gotten COVID-19 haven't gotten terribly sick. But there are still more than 750,000 Americans who have died from it, and an untold number of others who are still suffering the effects weeks, even months, afterward.

The suggestion that you can take vitamins and spices and horse dewormer rather than vaccines that have been proven to be both safe and effective and it’ll all be OK is dangerous. The idea you can heed the advice of podcasters and Internet “experts” over scientists and medical professionals is not only mind-boggling, it’s actually harmful.

“Everybody has an opinion, I understand it. It’s a very polarizing issue for some individuals,” Rodgers said Sunday night. “I’m just focusing on the support that I got. It was deep and wide and greatly, greatly appreciated.

“There’s always going to be criticism in this world,” Rodgers added. “I don’t define myself by the criticism, but I understand it’s a part of this because this issue is polarizing.  But again, I’m so deeply grateful for the people that reached out.”

That “polarization” is infuriating and Rodgers, whether he wants to admit it or not, is helping perpetuate it. 

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Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers reacts after throwing an incomplete pass on third down during the first half against the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field on November 14, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Science is not an opinion. It is based on verifiable data and painstaking research. Now, its interpretation might shift and sharpen as more information is gathered and gleaned. But there are no equal yet opposing ways to view it. Science can’t be seen from “both sides.”

Yet too many people, Rodgers included, have decided Dr. Google is more reputable than an actual doctor. That the information posted on a cousin’s Facebook page is more dependable than the studies and recommendations of researchers for whom this is their life’s work.

It’s akin to taking a car that’s in need of repair to an accountant or a chef, rather than, you know, a mechanic. Yet this choice to be ignorant has become acceptable, even celebrated.

And so long as there are seemingly no consequences when people like Rodgers spread misinformation, it will continue.

After Rodgers tested positive for COVID on Nov. 3, there was much debate on what impact it would have on his image and reputation. He was ridiculed on social media and the late-night shows, and lost an endorsement deal with Prevea, a Wisconsin health care company.

Not even two weeks later, however, all seems forgiven. Rodgers was greeted with loud cheers and applause when he took the field for warmups and again after the win. His State Farm commercials, noticeably absent last week, were back on air Sunday.

And thanks to Green Bay’s 17-0 win over the Seattle Seahawks and a loss by Arizona, the Packers are – for now – back in position to get the NFC’s No. 1 seed and the all-important bye that goes with it.

“Lot of emotions for sure,” Rodgers said. “Good to be back with the guys, good to be back at home, good to be on the field. Really the most emotions from the whole night was walking off the field. Definitely got me a little misty, heading off.

Asked why, Rodgers said, “I just don’t take these things for granted, walking off the field as a winner.”

Yet he’s willing to put it all at risk.  

Rodgers is now spared the daily testing the NFL requires of unvaccinated players for the next 75-plus days. The Super Bowl is 90 days away. That means should the Packers make it that far, Rodgers will again be subject to daily testing for nearly two weeks before the showdown.

Should he test positive, he’s out for a minimum of 10 days. Should he be identified as a close contact, it’s five days.

“I don’t really like playing the `What if?’ game. What I do know is I have more than two months right now where my protocol is not testing every single day. That’s kind of the only thing I’m thinking about,” Rodgers said.

“I don’t like playing the hypothetical game,” he added. “Obviously, I’d love to be playing second week of February.”

The three-time MVP will have to continue to be good for that happen. But he’ll have to continue to be lucky, too.

Follow USA TODAY Sports columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.