The top candidate to replace retired fullback James Develin in the New England Patriots’ offense, Danny Vitale, is opting out for the 2020 NFL season.
Vitale’s agent, Leigh Steinberg, confirmed the news to USA Today’s Jarrett Bell on Monday. NFL players are permitted to take a leave of absence during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vitale and his wife, Caley, have a newborn daughter.
The Patriots signed Vitale as a free agent in March. Vitale and Jakob Johnson are the lone fullbacks on the Patriots’ roster after Develin retired over neck injury concerns.
Patriots rookie tight ends Dalton Keene and Jake Burt also could line up at fullback in the Patriots’ offense. The Patriots were forced to use running backs, offensive linemen and defenders at fullback last season after Develin and Johnson were placed on injured reserve.
UPDATE (6:21 p.m.): Patriots guard Najee Toran is also opting out for the 2020 NFL season, a league source told The Boston Globe’s Jim McBride.
In addition to fullback Dan Vitale, #Patriots guard Najee Toran also has opted out of the season, per league source.
— Jim McBride (@globejimmcbride) July 27, 2020