At this point, it seems easier to rattle off the NFL teams who haven’t had anyone opt out yet. That’s because it’s true. According to CBS’ Opt Out Tracker, 22 teams have had at least one member of the roster choose not to play in 2020 either as a voluntary opt-out (several had new families they wanted to protect) or because they themselves were high-risk due to an underlying medical condition.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are on the short list of teams who’ve yet to have a player sit out the season. As of this writing, they join the: 49ers, Bucs, Cardinals, Chargers, Colts, Dolphins, Falcons, and Raiders.
Players who have opted out of 2020 come in all shapes and sizes. They are big named starters like Bears’ DT Eddie Goldman, Giants’ LT Nate Solder, and Chiefs’ RB Damien Williams. There’s also fringe roster players like Cowboys’ CB Maurice Canaday and Lions’ DL John Atkins. There are former Steelers who are sitting out. Jaguars’ DT Al Woods announced yesterday he won’t play this season.
And Pittsburgh’s the only AFC North team without an opt out. Baltimore has two, WR/RB De’Anthony Thomas and OT Andre Smith, Cincinnati DL Josh Tupou and OL Isaiah Prince, and Cleveland OL Drew Forbes and Drake Dorbeck. Not Earth shattering losses for anyone, though Tupou was an important rotational piece along the Bengals’ d-line while Thomas had a role in the Ravens’ return game last season.
New England is the team with the most current opt outs. Six Patriots (update: now seven) are sitting out, including several starters: FB Danny Vitale, OT Marcus Cannon, and SS Patrick Chung. They’re the only team with more than two.
Players still have time to opt out. The deadline to decide comes a week after the COVID agreement between league and union is signed; so far, it hasn’t. Expect the league-wide list to grow and the potential for a Steeler to go that route. No doubt football players are watching the mess that is baseball, barely able to get a week into their season without outbreaks, postponements, and a league barely holding it together.
Two higher-risk players in James Conner and Cam Heyward have committed to playing this season but as we’ve seen across the league, players can opt out for a any voluntary reason.