Get the jab, stay on the job.
And if you don’t get the jab?
Be sure not to get infected.
That’s the neon-bright message for NFL quarterbacks, given the tumble the Green Bay Packers took Sunday in Kansas City with Aaron Rodgers in quarantine in Wisconsin.
The consequence of Rodgers choosing not to vaccinate himself against the coronavirus was the Packers lost an important game they arguably would have won if the league’s reigning MVP — who said he’s healthy — had played.
The Packers sorely missed Rodgers against the defensively subpar Chiefs and fell, 13-7, behind hesitant, inaccurate Jordan Love in his first NFL start.
The Packers (7-2) remain on a glide path to win the pitiful NFC Central where the Minnesota Vikings (3-5) and Chicago Bears (3-5) are 3 1/2 games back.
The 37-year-old Rodgers, who can rejoin the team Saturday and face Seattle a day later, may benefit physically from the 10-day hiatus he got by testing positive Wednesday as an unvaccinated player.
The heat will be on him to make amends. The Packers’ margins in pursuit of a golden playoff ticket were slimmed by the dismal offensive performance and two botched field-goal tries against the vulnerable Chiefs (5-4).
If the Packers end up not claiming the NFC’s top seed and the playoff-round bye it carries, their Super Bowl road will grow steeper. They’d have to win not two but three NFC playoff games to advance to the Kroenke Dome in Inglewood. Though Rodgers led the 2010 Packers to three consecutive playoff victories, all on the road, only eight of 38 (21 percent) Super Bowl participants didn’t have a first-round bye in the current 32-team era. Of those 19 Super Bowl winners, 12 (64 percent) had the benefit of a bye.
Rodgers isn’t the only NFL starting quarterback who refused the vaccine. Kirk Cousins (Vikings), Josh Allen (Bills), Lamar Jackson (Ravens) and Carson Wentz (Colts) indicated in the preseason they weren’t vaccinated, while knowing if they were to test positive for the virus, they would be quarantined for 10 days instead of the 24-hour window for a vaccinated player, pending further tests.
By testing positive as an unvaccinated player, Rodgers opened himself to criticism he failed his team.
“Aaron Rodgers, to me, did not do everything he could to stay off this (10-day inactive) list,” Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy said Sunday night.
Said former Super Bowl-winning quarterback Drew Brees, an NBC colleague of Dungy’s: “The most important thing is you are available to your team Sunday so you can help them win.”
Rodgers might once again tell his critics: “RELAX.”
Following that response to criticism after the team’s 1-2 start in 2014, he led Green Bay to an 11-2 finish that claimed a playoff-round bye.
This year’s NFC field may be deeper: the defending Super Bowl-champion Tampa Bay Bucs (6-2), speedy Arizona Cardinals (8-1), East-leading Dallas Cowboys (6-2) and star-laden Los Angeles Rams ( 7-1, going into Sunday’s game against Tennessee) are vying with Green Bay for the NFC’s top seed.
Without Rodgers on Sunday, the Packers didn’t score until late in the fourth quarter against a team that was 25th in points allowed and 28th in rush yards allowed per attempt.
Green Bay’s offense, which failed to convert on its first eight third-down tries, undermined a strong defensive showing against a misfiring Chiefs offense.
Love’s rough performance was typical for a young quarterback making his first start. Increasing his challenges, Love had scant practice time with No. 1 receiver Davante Adams — sidelined most of the past week — and faced sophisticated blitzes and disguises from coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who won two Super Bowls opposite Tom Brady.
But Love (19 for 34, 194 yards; 27.5 QBR) was far less productive Sunday than 2020 draft colleague Justin Herbert was in first NFL start, a strong showing against the Chiefs last year.
There’s no shame in trailing Herbert, who has avoided most of the pitfalls that sidetrack young quarterbacks. On balance, Love’s performance was slightly disappointing for a quarterback who had a full year-plus in coach Matt LaFleur’s system and could learn from a three-time MVP.
Not even glimmers were evident Sunday of the NFL star potential the Packers saw in Love when they traded up to draft the Utah State alum 26th overall.
If he’s true to form, Rodgers will play well when he returns, while LaFleur — whose program has an 82 percent win rate in three years — will tweak what can be tweaked on offense.
Rodgers still has a real shot at a second Super Bowl ring.
Without him, the Pack isn’t immunized against a steep dropoff.