One day after opting out of the 2020 NFL season due to COVID-19 concerns, Patrick Chung appeared on “CBS This Morning” to explain his reasoning.
“Of course, it’s a tough decision,” the New England Patriots safety said Wednesday morning. “You want to play football. I’m in the latter end of my career, so I wanted to play football. But when it comes down to it, I feel that money is not that important.
“I have a girlfriend that’s pregnant, a baby girl coming soon, my son has a little asthma, my dad is 75 years old. I just felt like this was the best decision for my family to keep everyone safe. I don’t think it’s fair to them. So I decided to do that. It’s not over. It’s just postponed a little bit.”
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) July 29, 2020
To date, Chung is one of six Patriots players to opt out, joining linebacker Dont’a Hightower, offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, running back Brandon Bolden, fullback Danny Vitale and guard Najee Toran.
Chung, Hightower, Cannon and Bolden all have won multiple Super Bowls with New England. The last time the Patriots played a regular-season game without at least one of the four active was Week 10 of the 2011 season.
NFL players voluntarily opting out will receive a $150,000 salary advance for the season. Those deemed “higher-risk” — a list that likely includes Cannon, who has a history of cancer — will receive a $350,000 stipend.
According to a report Tuesday from Jeff Howe of The Athletic, the Patriots are not expecting any additional opt-outs. Chung, though, indicated “a lot” of players are weighing their options. The deadline for player opt-outs is Aug. 3.
“I don’t know,” Chung said when asked if other Patriots will opt out. “I can’t really speak (for) those guys. I know a lot of guys are thinking — it is; it’s a scary situation. 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.
“So we’ll see. That’s going to come out eventually. We’ve got a couple more days.”
Chung, who was entering his 12th NFL season (11th with the Patriots) and turns 33 in August, added that the league’s plans for protecting players from the coronavirus did not influence his decision.
“The league, they’re doing their precautions, trying to do what (they can) to keep us safe,” he said. “So it’s nothing with the league. It’s just more about people have different situations and different families. I just have a certain situation where I had to make the best decision for my family, so that’s what I did.”
Chung was asked how Bill Belichick reacted upon learning New England would be without one of its longest-tenured defensive players this season. He wouldn’t reveal details of their conversation but said the Patriots head coach “totally understood.”
“That’s private, but he understood,” Chung said. “He understands it’s a serious pandemic going on. He totally got it. You guys think Bill is this drill sergeant, but he’s actually a very caring person. So he totally understood, and that was it. It was a short phone call.”
Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty said Sunday that reckless behavior he’s seen from some players on social media has made him “very nervous” about a potential cancellation of this season. Other players have voiced their concerns, as well. Does Chung expect the season to be played?
“I mean, I pray so,” he replied. “That only means that this corona stuff is just getting better. So I play there is, but as of now, it’s still a dangerous thing. So I don’t really know. I hope there is for the sake of the fans and people to be able to take care of their families — other young players and everything.
“But we’ll see. If it gets worse, I don’t see it happening. It’s about safety. But as of right now, I guess it’s OK. Hopefully, it gets better and the season can go. Only time can tell.”