NFL's Head Doctor Praises League's Vaccination Rate, Despite Aaron Rodgers, Others

Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer, praised the league's vaccination rate, despite Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers and other marquee players recently entering the NFL's COVID protocols.

Rodgers missed a headline matchup with the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes when he went into the protocol last week. Giants running back Saquon Barkley entered the protocols as well. Packers receiver Davante Adams, a 2020 All-Pro, Vikings safety Harrison Smith, and Bucs wideout Antonio Brown are other key players that have sat out at times this season.

Under league guidelines, all coaches must be vaccinated. However, according to The Associated Press, Arizona's Kliff Kingsbury and Chicago's Matt Nagy have been sitting out for games because of COVID protocols.

The 2021 season has gone well compared to last year when 18 games were either moved or postponed due to COVID breakouts or restrictions. The schedule has yet to be interrupted halfway through.

"We're still learning a lot, every week we continue to look at our data, just as we did last year, and adjust our protocols," Sills said.

"We still don't see any evidence of outdoor, on-field spread of COVID, which I think is important. And definitely we're seeing that vaccinated individuals have milder disease: shorter duration, fewer symptoms overall. So, those are positive trends."

Symptom reporting has been key to avoiding outbreaks and will continue to be a focus throughout the rest of the season, Sill said during the owners' meeting last month.

Sills said some vaccinated people are not recognizing COVID symptoms since they are different than last year. "So we've really been emphasizing, to borrow a phrase from the TSA, that 'if you feel something, say something' because we think it's important for people to speak up and get tested," he said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

COVD, NFL, Protocol, Vaccination
Allen Sills, Chief Medical Officer for the NFL, speaks to reporters during the NFL football owners meeting in New York, Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer, praised the rate of vaccination despite player Aaron Rodgers and others entering the NFL's COVID protocols. Seth Wenig/AP Photo

"I do think that .... we are definitely seeing the impact of vaccines," Sill continued. "We're seeing that impact in the number of cases that we have, we're not seeing the clustering of cases that we saw last year. We're not seeing the uncontrolled spread."

A prime example of that occurred in October with the Arizona Cardinals, forcing Kingsbury to miss a game. Data showed through genetic sequencing that of the first seven cases in that cluster, five were different strains of the virus. That indicated rather than a spread within the team facility and person to person, exposure came outside the facility.

"So again, I think we're seeing substantial effect in a beneficial way of the vaccines," Sills said. "Had we had that kind of exposure last year when no one was protected, I think we would have had a very, very different outcome."

What's ahead as the league continually evaluates its protocols while it attempts to complete a second consecutive schedule without losing a game to COVID-19?

"I think right now I would say we're pleased with where we are, but it's not a point where we would want to take our foot off the gas pedal," Sills said. "We certainly still see, as we've seen I mentioned before with the Arizona situation, high rates of community exposure. So I think we have to continue to be vigilant, but we'll certainly look at the data and not only think about pulling back, but see where the protocol can become more effective.

"You know, what are the parts of it that really keep us safe, what are the parts that prevent transmission, and how can we adapt as we see new knowledge come out? "

Aaron Rodgers, COVID, Vaccination, NFL
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers celebrates a win against the Arizona Cardinals Oct. 28, 2021. Although Rodgers and several others recently entered the NFL's COVID protocols, Dr. Allen Sill, the NFL's chief medical officer, praised the league's vaccination rate. Rick Scuteri/AP Photo