“#Dont’a Hightower becomes fifth Patriots player to opt out of 2020 NFL season”
July 28, 2020 | 8:11am | Updated July 28, 2020 | 9:01am
Chief among them, as of Tuesday morning, is Pro Bowl linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who according to ESPN is opting out of the 2020 season after having a baby two weeks ago. He is the fifth Patriot thus far expected to opt out. NFL players can opt out of the season because of the ongoing pandemic as part of a recent agreement between the league and the players’ association.
“Me and my fiancée are just more concerned with the health of our family than football — especially the new addition to our family,” Hightower told NFL Network. Hightower’s mother L’Tanya has Type 2 diabetes, according to ESPN.
Hightower, 30, has been a part of three Patriots Super Bowl championship teams. In 2019, he had a combined 71 tackles, eight for a loss, along with 5.5 sacks and four passes defensed.
Marcus Cannon, the Patriots’ starting right tackle, is also expected to opt out, along with running back Brandon Bolden, offensive lineman Najee Toran and fullback Danny Vitale, according to reports. Cannon, 32, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma before the 2011 NFL Draft, and would receive a $350,000 salary for being a high-risk opt out. Players opting out who aren’t high-risk receive $150,000.
Those who intend to play, however, could potentially lose pay if they engage in activities away from the team deemed to be “high-risk,” according to a recent NFLPA memo. Teams can argue a player contracting coronavirus by putting himself in a “high-risk” situation is a non-football injury. Players on the non-football injury list are not guaranteed their base salary.
Patriots corner Jason McCourty recently said on his “Double Coverage” podcast with his twin brother Devin that he’s worried about trying to play during the pandemic.
“I’m not going to lie. For me, as a fellow player, I go on social media and it makes me very nervous to think there will be a season,” Jason McCourty said. “Because I’ve gone on social media and seen guys posting a video in a nightclub, and it’s just like, ‘Yo, we’re attempting to play football. That’s not going to be OK.’”
He’s concerned about an outbreak similar to the one the Miami Marlins have, with 11 players and two coaches known to have tested positive.
“It only takes one person testing positive. You come into the building, and that thing will spread like wildfire,” McCourty said.
Veteran players are set to report to NFL training camps this week. With the preseason canceled, teams won’t have padded practices until mid-August as part of a ramp-up period.
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