A “numb” Aaron Rodgers said he would “take some time away” to think about his future, following the Green Bay Packers’ stunning loss to the 49ers in Saturday night’s NFC divisional playoff game.
Even if that “time away” includes his movie star fiancée, Shailene Woodley, it’s hard to imagine that the couple would generate the level of excitement and good will they enjoyed last year, after they surprised fans with news of their secret engagement and delighted them with their Instagram video about Rodgers guest-hosting “Jeopardy!” or the many photos shared of their travels to Mexico, Disney World, the Kentucky Derby and Maui.
Fair or not, Rodgers’ fall from grace over his incendiary anti-vaccination comments and the Packers’ stunning loss to the 49ers Saturday night is likely to renew questions about his relationship with Woodley.
After the once-well-regarded NFL quarterback, 38, and the “Big Little Lies” star, 30, revealed last winter that they had begun dating in July 2020, during the pandemic lockdown, they emerged as America’s favorite new celebrity super couple. They came across as fun-loving, adventurous and not that eager to take themselves too seriously.
That glow around the couple disappeared after Rodgers became the butt of jokes, or much worse, because of his COVID comments. He was accused of disseminating misinformation about a global pandemic and being an arrogant, narcissistic crackpot with a persecution complex who rails about the “woke mob” and being “canceled.” Woodley became caught up in Rodgers’ controversy because she has long been an advocate for alternative medicines and natural, herbal remedies.
Meanwhile, there also has been a growing realization that the Chico-reared former Cal player has been acting like a “diva” in regard to playing for Green Bay, and has otherwise emerged as “a very strange guy,” said “The Ringer” CEO Bill Simmons.
Following the top-seeded Packers’ dramatic 13-10 loss to San Francisco on the final play of Saturday night’s game, Rodgers was the subject of “unparalleled” roasting by sports analysts and people on social media, as Simmons said on his podcast Sunday night. Critics questioned whether he deserves to win a second-straight NFL Most Valuable Player award, saying he shares responsibility for Saturday night’s loss and has probably been overrated all along because he has failed for the past 12 years to get his team back to the Super Bowl.
But Woodley also was swept up by all the schadenfreude.
A fan account, Shailene Woodley Updates, retweeted a post saying it was “sexism” to “drag” Woodley because of the Packers’ playoff loss, but the account also said: “Shailene sweetie now is the time to announce you dumped him months ago.”
The couple’s relationship has become the subject of rumors and speculation over the past few months, given that they stopped being seen in public last spring and stopped sharing any news about each other in interviews or on social media by the start of the NFL season. Rodgers made no mention of even having a fiancée in his lengthy, “unfiltered” interview with ESPN last week, although he said he liked “keeping a separation of private life and (professional) life.”
But he wasn’t so private when he was quoted in early September, saying that it would “be a good thing” for him and Woodley to spend time time apart, while he focused on the season and she focused on TV and film projects.
Woodley also never positioned herself as the kind of girlfriend who would regularly be seen in the luxury box, cheering her man on. When she talked about their engagement during a February 2021 interview on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” she revealed that she had never watched a football game before dating Rodgers. Woodley also said she still not seen Rodgers play in person.
“When we met, also, like I knew he was a football guy, but I didn’t know like what kind of a football guy he was,” she said. “Because I don’t know him as a football guy. I know him as like the nerd who wants to host ‘Jeopardy!’ You know, that’s the dude I know.”
In early December, People quoted a source close to Woodley who insisted that she and Rodgers are “still together” but were making the relationship work “on their terms.” That means, for example, that she wasn’t going to wish him a happy birthday publicly when he turned 38, the source said.
“They have a different, non-traditional relationship,” the source said. “It’s not odd they don’t post about each other on their birthdays in that sense, and are very private about things.”
However, Woodley wasn’t very private when she boasted about Rodgers’ physical attributes on social media in early November, after he tested positive for COVID-19 and delivered the first of his anti-vaccination statements on the “The Pat McAfee” show.
Woodley took to social media to slam a Daily Mail report that misidentified Rodgers in photos. The Daily Mail falsely reported that Rodgers broke his 10-day quarantine after testing positive for COVID. It also published a photo of a bearded man in a mask, which Woodley denied was Rodgers, writing, “Literally, y’all need to calm the (expletive) down.”
Woodley continued her expletive-laced complaint against the “expletive” media by saying, “I know Aaron’s body very well.” She joked that Rodgers has “bigger feet than the man in the photo,” likely referring to another, more intimate part of his anatomy. She also said, “It’s no secret that he has hairiest hands on the (expletive) planet.”
Woodley faced fierce criticism for her post, which publicly shamed the man in the Daily Mail photos. Her comments also seemed to disregard many people’s public health concerns about Rodgers’ anti-vaccination comments or how he misled reporters about his vaccination status and therefore showed disregard for other people’s safety.
Woodley additionally came across as oblivious to the way that her reputation in the film and TV industry was being affected by her association with her anti-vaccine fiancé. People on social media wondered whether she had influenced his thinking about health issues, or whether she was adhering to any vaccine protocols on the sets of projects she was working on.
Woodley and Rodgers’ good friend, Miles Teller, also had been at the center of a fierce Hollywood debate about the financial and public health costs of performers who resist getting vaccinated. According to a Daily Mail report, Teller caused headaches on the set of his new TV series by refusing to be vaccinated. Two weeks after Rodgers’ controversy erupted, Teller finally issued a statement on the issue, saying he had been vaccinated “for a while.”
Teller and his wife, model Keleigh Sperry, had been Woodley and Rodgers’ well-known traveling companions last spring. The foursome seemed to enjoy a close bond, as Sperry shared multiple images of the two couples enjoying lavish, fun-filled trips to the Kentucky Derby in April and to Maui in May. Rodgers and Teller’s controversies cast those vacations in a new light, just as Rodgers and Woodley’s relationship is likely to face new scrutiny in the coming weeks.