Suspended NFL player Isaiah Rodgers Sr. says bets were made for others

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TAMPA, Fla. — Former Indianapolis Colts cornerback Isaiah Rodgers Sr., in his first interview since being suspended by the NFL for betting on his own team, says that while bets were made from his account, they were made for others and not himself.

Rodgers said the wagers, including some smaller ones and a $1,000 prop bet, were placed from his online sports gambling account. He said they were made for people who lived in Florida, where online sports betting at that time remained illegal.

“Just trying to help friends and family out, just knowing that it wasn’t legal at the time in Florida and it was in Indiana,” Rodgers told ESPN.

Rodgers, citing legal reasons, declined to identify the individuals that he says he placed bets for.

“At the end of the day I knew the rules, I wasn’t supposed to do it and I got to take what comes with it,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers was suspended on June 29 for violating the NFL’s gambling policy. That same day, he was waived by the Colts.

As part of an ESPN “Outside the Lines” look at sports betting, Rodgers talked about the wagers, the suspension and how he’s been dealing with his season-long absence from the game.

In suspending Rodgers, NFL investigators determined that he had committed multiple offenses. He’d placed bets at the Colts’ facility. Even worse, he’d bet on his own team — something that under league rules at the time meant a one-year suspension.

Since then, the penalty for a player betting on his own team was increased to a two-year suspension.

At the time of his suspension, ESPN reported that Rodgers had placed more than 100 bets — including on Colts games — and most were in the $25 to $50 range. One wager, in particular, stood out: a $1,000 prop bet on the over/under on rushing yards by Colts running back Jonathan Taylor, which Rodgers won.

“That report is true, with it being $1,000, but that report wasn’t made from my device,” Rodgers told ESPN. “The $25 to $50 bets are exactly true, but it was more crazy-leg parlays with just $25 trying to make a crazy amount. Just funny bets. Nothing too serious. It was never, ‘This bet here is going to change my life.'”

Rodgers was asked why he would jeopardize the $850,000 salary he was set to earn during the 2023-24 season.

“I questioned myself, too,” Rodgers told ESPN. “But I thought I probably wouldn’t get caught, wouldn’t get in trouble.”

Rodgers was shopping with his family near his Tampa-area home when Colts general manager Chris Ballard called to say that he had been waived.

“It’s a call that you never really want, knowing that a team that made your dreams come true is now the team letting you go,” Rodgers said. “It was a heartbreaking moment at the time because I was actually with my family in the store and I had to break that news to them when I got in the car.”

Ballard issued a statement at the time, saying “the integrity of the game is of the utmost importance” and that the Colts would “continue to educate our players, coaches and staff on the policies in place and the significant consequences that may occur with violations.”

Rodgers, in an apology on his social media accounts, owned up to his transgressions, writing that he took “full responsibility” and that he “let people down that I care about.”

He said he had known for months that the suspension was coming — first hearing from his agent in late February or early March that he was under investigation by the NFL — but he kept the news to himself. His mother, Kelly O’Neal, said she found out about the suspension in June from a report that aired on ESPN.

“I saw it coming across the bottom of the screen,” O’Neal said. “My first thought was, ‘Was he OK?’ His future was so bright for him with the Colts, it was right there, and then boom.”

The NFL educates its players each year in myriad ways about the rules surrounding sports betting. Players are forbidden from betting on NFL games, not allowed to visit sportsbooks during the season and not allowed to place bets of any kind while at a team facility or venue. There are educational videos sent to clubs and in-person sessions to familiarize players with the league policy. No player can claim ignorance of the rules.

“It’s our responsibility to share as much education as we can with as many people as we can so that there’s no confusion as to what the rules are,” said Jeff Miller, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications.

Rodgers said he’d never gambled before the five-to-six-month period during which he says he placed more than 100 bets for others and that, in many ways, the suspension has been “a blessing.”

He’s been able to enjoy Sundays as a “regular” football fan, gathering around multiple screens at his home to watch NFL games with friends and family. He said he’s been able to spend more time with his two 1-year-old children — daughter Maliyah and son Isaiah Jr.

“That’s going to be the hardest part, especially with my son, with him having my exact same name,” Rodgers said. “He might just Google his name for fun like I used to do as a kid and knowing what I’ve been through, the negativity that comes with me will pop up under his name.”

Rodgers also said he understands the inevitable questions that will arise when people consider the reasons behind his suspension — like whether he ever altered the outcome of a game because of a bet.

“I studied too hard and too long and worked too hard to even get to this position to go out there and say, ‘I’m going to make this guy catch the ball and score a touchdown on me just for $25, $50 bets.’ Nah, that’s not even the type of person I am.”

In August, the Philadelphia Eagles signed Rodgers and placed him on the reserve/suspended list. He won’t be eligible to apply for reinstatement by the league until after the Super Bowl.

Overcoming doubters and adversity has been central to Rodgers’ life and football journey. In June 2013, his father, Craig Devon Rodgers, was shot and killed by a detective with the Bradenton, Florida, police department during a confrontation following a domestic dispute and alleged kidnapping.

Rodgers left high school in 2016 weighing just 140 pounds, but he became a starter at cornerback during his freshman season at the University of Massachusetts.

He weighed just 170 pounds when the Colts selected him with the 211th pick in the 2020 NFL draft. His speed as a corner and kick returner — Rodgers ran a 4.28 40-yard dash at his pro day — led the Colts to take a flier on him.

“I feel like losing my dad in 2013 helped me be the person I am to date,” Rodgers said. “I feel like I’ve been through the worst of the worst.”

“Something like this [the gambling suspension], if this happened to someone else, they probably would go insane. But knowing that I already been through the worst, really nothing can break me again.”