Perhaps in what is a sign of things to come across the league, the Patriots had six players opt out of the NFL season over the last two days.
Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Marcus Cannon, Brandon Bolden, Dan Vitale and Najee Toran all will not play this coming season.
Across the league there have already been and will be plenty more to come, but for Patriots players like Hightower, Chung, Cannon and Bolden, it’s easy to understand why, even more so than other players.
Think about it, all those players have won Super Bowls, played on some great teams making great lifelong friends along the way and made a tremendous amount of money — what else do they need?
Cannon, who is 32 years old and overcame non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2011 has won three Super Bowls and has earned over $30 million in total cash over the course of his career with $13 million to come over the next two seasons. Hightower has made some of the biggest plays in Super Bowl history and has made over $50 million since 2012. Chung, 32, has also won three Super Bowls and has made close to $35 million.
Is it really worth it for these players to go through all the extra precautions this summer not even knowing if there will be a season? Is it even worth playing a season with all the extra precautions put in place that not only impact the players themselves, but their families as well?
These players really do not have much left to accomplish in their NFL careers and now as they approach the end of them it’s more about having fun and the love of the sport. There’s the potential for this year to not be very fun, if it even happens.
Players dislike training camp so much as it is and often times players will decide in the days and weeks leading into it whether to retire or not.
It was likely the same with opting out due to cornonavirus this year. As players get set to report for training camp this week, conversations likely picked up with their families, perhaps some urging their husband, dad, son, etc. to stay home and not play this season.
Football is different than all the other sports for a variety of reasons.
First off, the rosters are much, much bigger — three and four times than some of the other sports. It isn’t 20 players during the start of training camp, it is 80. Basically, players need to trust that the 79 other players are doing the right things and not putting teammates at risk. That's hard to do.
That goes down to 60ish with the practice squad during the season, but it’s still on another level compared to the other sports. Imagine a socially distanced locker room with 60 or so players? It won’t be anything close to what these players are used to and certainly takes away from the overall experience.
And then the game itself. No sport has as much contact as football. From tackling on every play, linemen blocking each other every down, huddles before every play, to even just lining up within a few feet of one another, it’s incredibly different than any other sport.
There’s no question there’s more risk playing football than say baseball.
So, while it’s easy to see why any NFL player would decide to opt out this season, it’s even easier to see for a few Patriots veterans who really do not have much left to accomplish and is more about the fun experiences at this stage of their careers.