As of this writing, there are eight NFL players who have been confirmed as having chosen to opt out of participation during the 2020 season. There are others who have been reported as weighing this decision heavily, as Marcus Cannon of the New England Patriots had, who it was reported late last night ultimately decided to opt out. Cannon battled cancer while he was in college.
The most high-profile opt-out so far is Kansas City Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who almost immediately announced his decision as soon as the opt-out process was finalized. Throughout the offseason, the medical school graduate has been contributing as an orderly in a long-term care facility. He is giving up a couple million dollars in salary to do this.
Joining him yesterday so far are six other players. The Baltimore Ravens are among the teams to have seen one of their players opt out so far, in their case De’Anthony Thomas, the wide receiver who has been the team’s primary return man.
Chance Warmack, a former first-round offensive lineman, was signed earlier this year by the Seattle Seahawks to compete for a starting job along the line. He has opted out of the season, and according to ESPN, he has felt the impact of Covid-19 directly, with several of those close to him having been hospitalized, and one losing their lives.
Veteran cornerback Maurice Canaday of the Dallas Cowboys and Washington defensive lineman Caleb Brantley are two additional players who have announced that they would be accepting the voluntary opt-out for the 2020 season, which will provide them with a stipend of $150,000. Canaday wrote on Twitter, “family first, money second”.
Finally, as mentioned at the top of the article, two other members of the Patriots have already been announced as taking the opt-out for the season, fullback Danny Vitale and interior offensive lineman Najee Toran. Vitale was a free agent signing to replace veteran fullback James Develin.
Players still have a few more days to exercise their right to opt out of the season, and many are still considering doing so. Perhaps others will have already been announced by the time this article publishes in the morning.
This was an important matter for the NFLPA during their negotiations with the NFL regarding the protocols for returning to play, making sure that there was an option available to all players, and not just those who may be at higher risk. Those who qualify as having a higher risk will be given a stipend of $350,000.
To date, there have been no obvious indications that any member of the Pittsburgh Steelers will choose to opt out, but it is of course a distinct possibility. Every major league has seen players choose not to play with a mind toward their health as the country continues to grapple with Covid-19.
Since this article published, four additional players have chosen to exercise their right to opt out of the season, bringing the current known total to 12. Two more Patriots, Dont’a Hightower and Brandon Bolden, along with Ravens lineman Andre Smith and the Broncos’ Kyle Peko, have chosen not to play. Hightower’s family recently welcomed a new child earlier this month.