Let's be real: The NFL won't force the Green Bay Packers to waive quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
And frankly, it would be sketchy for the league at this point even to question the Packers' decision to place Rodgers on injured reserve. The NFL's management council must approve all transactions before they are finalized, so any issues with the process should have been brought up when the Packers submitted the move Tuesday.
But the story ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday morning -- that other teams believe the Packers violated injured reserve rules and should have to waive Rodgers once he is healthy -- is important and harkens back to the days when teams would routinely use injured reserve to stash relatively healthy players and prevent them from changing teams. Because the NFL and its teams often have outsized reactions to minor rules debates, I wouldn't be shocked at all if this episode leads to an offseason of teeth-gnashing followed by a tweak of the procedures in question.
The NFL classifies injuries as "major" or "minor" based on whether it will take more or less than six weeks for the player to recover. In essence, a player placed on IR with a minor injury is subject to waivers after he recovers. In Rodgers' case, the question is what happened during his Dec. 17 start against the Carolina Panthers to put him in the "major" category.
The answer, from the outside, is unclear. Coach Mike McCarthy told reporters that Rodgers did not suffer a setback during that game but was "sore." If Rodgers was healthy enough to start against the Panthers and didn't suffer a setback, what could the medical explanation be for classifying his injury as "major"?
That's what other teams no doubt were asking this past week. Officially, the NFL was satisfied with the Packers' answer, or it wouldn't have approved the transaction.
But in typical NFL fashion, the teams' issue is not about whether the Packers should truly lose Rodgers but the extent to which they might have stretched the rules to add a healthy player to their roster and thus gain a competitive advantage.
I think we all understand what the Packers did. They lost to the Panthers on Sunday. On Monday, they were eliminated from the playoffs. On Tuesday, they ended Rodgers' season. There was no competitive reason for him to continue playing after the Packers were eliminated from the playoffs. While he was medically cleared to play against the Panthers, it is reasonable to assume that he was not 100 percent healed. He gave it a shot at less than full health at a time when the Packers were still in the playoff race.
Even so, the Packers could have kept Rodgers on the 53-man roster and simply deactivated him for their remaining two games. In that case, however, the Packers would have had to cut another player to make room for backup quarterback Joe Callahan, who took Rodgers' roster spot.
So yeah, that's really what we're arguing about here. Nobody is disputing whether Rodgers is healthy or the Packers' decision to end Rodgers' season. Instead, it's about how they protected their rights to a bottom-of-the-roster player in doing so. That's an NFL-style scandal if I've ever heard one.