With the coronavirus still very much a thing, the NFL and NFL Players Association set a deadline of Thursday for players to decide whether or not they would be opting out of the upcoming season. Now that that deadline has passed, we know exactly which players we won’t see on the field this year.
The Chicago Tribune reports that while there weren’t any surprises like Patrick Mahomes or Russell Wilson—who recently welcomed a baby into the fold—there were 66 players in total who passed on playing this season, including some noteworthy names.
From the Chicago Tribune:
The Patriots, already minus several stars who left in free agency — including, of course, Tom Brady to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — saw eight players opt out: running back Brandon Bolden, offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, safety Patrick Chung, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, tight end Matt LaCosse, wide receiver Marqise Lee, offensive lineman Najee Toran and fullback Dan Vitale. Hightower, Cannon and Chung were key contributors in recent seasons.
The Cleveland Browns were next with five players skipping the season: defensive tackle Andrew Billings, offensive tackle Drake Dorbeck and guards Drew Forbes, Colby Gossett and Malcolm Pridgeon.
Of the 66 players to opt-out, nearly half (20 offensive linemen, 11 defensive linemen) were linemen. The rest of the opt-outs are broken down as such: 11 wide receivers, eight linebackers, six cornerbacks, four running backs, three tight ends and three safeties. There were no quarterbacks, kickers or punters who pulled out. And out of 32 teams, only three had no one opt-out: the Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta Falcons and Los Angeles Chargers.
“Those are not easy decisions to make as a player, especially when you love the game,” Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons told reporters. “But family will always come first. And I’ve had a lot of difficult conversations with my wife and, yeah, it’s not ever going to be easy. Just like for the rest of America, it’s not easy on anyone right now.”
Two of Simmons’ teammates, Von Miller and Kareem Jackson, contracted COVID-19 prior to training camp. They’ve since recovered and their decision to move forward with playing this year factored heavily into Simmons’ decision not to opt-out.
“Having conversations with guys like Kareem and Von, people that have had it and had to endure that and work through it, it’s a scary time,” he said. “And the reality is this is affecting a lot of families.
“My wife and I have had really difficult conversations about opting out and what the season’s going to look like. And do you really think measures are being taken that you guys are being cared for in the best way possible? And obviously I haven’t seen a lot of the places around the NFL, but just being here, you can really see the effort in the Denver facilities to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to make sure we can play football in a safe manner.”
For Simmons’ sake, hopefully the rest of the league follows suit.
Players still reserve the right to skip the season after Thursday’s deadline. If the decision is made due to a change in medical status, they would still receive a stipend of $350,000 to offset their forfeiture of salary. However, no financial compensation will be rendered should players voluntarily opt-out in the future.
Football will look drastically different this upcoming season but hopefully, it won’t be at the expense of the health and safety of NFL players.