The six New England Patriots players who decided to opt out of the 2020 NFL season did so with the full support of their head coach.
Speaking Friday in a video conference with reporters, Bill Belichick said he respects the choices that Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Marcus Cannon, Brandon Bolden, Danny Vitale and Najee Toran made to prioritize their health and families over football amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“I respect all of them,” Belichick said. “I respect all the players on our team. We all have to make decisions. I talked to those guys, and they explained their situation. They had to make the decision that was best for them, and I totally respect and support it, 100 percent.”
Hightower, Chung, Cannon and Bolden all have played important roles on multiple Super Bowl-winning Patriots teams and are well-respected figures in New England’s locker room. Vitale was projected to start at fullback this season after signing as a free agent in March.
Belichick said he’s unsure whether any additional Patriots players will opt out. The deadline for opt-outs has not been finalized but will be no earlier than Aug. 7.
“Again, I think everybody’s got to make their own individual decisions on that, and they have to weigh their own situation,” Belichick said. “Each one of us is unique and we all have different lives, situations, families, environments, and so forth and so on. There’s no two situations that are the same. Everybody will have to make their own decision on that.
“My crystal ball is kind of cloudy right now, so I have no idea of what will happen along those lines. I think everybody in the league, every team in the league, every player, every coach, everybody in the league is involved in that to some degree. So we’ll just have to see how it turns out.”
Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater reportedly considered opting out before ultimately deciding to play. More teammates might have followed suit had the longtime locker room leader chosen to sit out, according to a report from NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo.
Chung, who said Belichick “totally understood” his decision, told “CBS This Morning” on Wednesday that other Patriots players were contemplating whether or not to play this season.
“I know a lot of guys are thinking — it is; it’s a scary situation,” the veteran safety said. “And whatever they decide, then that’s on them. I can’t really speak for them. Like I said, everyone has different situations. Some people don’t have people at high risk in their household or around them, so it’s a little different. Hopefully, whatever they do, they make the right decision that’s going to keep their family healthy, keep them healthy and be safe.”