Bill Belichick: 'I Totally Respect and Support' Patriots Who Opted out of Season

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorJuly 31, 2020

FILE - In this Jan. 4, 2020, file photo, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick takes notes on the sideline in the first half of an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Tennessee Titans in Foxborough, Mass. The NFL Draft is April 23-25, 2020. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)
Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Six members of the New England Patriots have opted out of the 2020 NFL season because of concerns related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, per  

Pats head coach Bill Belichick expressed his respect and support for those players' decisions in comments made to reporters during a Friday press conference (h/t Henry McKenna of USA Today).

"I respect all of them. ... I talked to those guys and they explained their situations, and they had to make the decisions that were best for them, and I totally respect and support it."

The six Pats who will sit out the 2020 season are linebacker Dont'a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung, fullback Dan Vitale, running back Brandon Bolden and offensive linemen Marcus Cannon and Najee Toran.

All NFL players have the option to opt out of the 2020 season amid the pandemic, per Players who do so on a voluntary basis will receive a $150,000 salary advance, and players deemed high-risk because of medical concerns will receive a $350,000 stipend. In both instances, players' contracts will be tolled to 2021.

As of Friday evening, 34 players have decided to opt out.

The COVID-19 pandemic has already caused mass changes throughout the league, including holding the draft virtually, canceling the preseason and offseason team activities and reorganizing team facilities to adhere to social distancing protocols.

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Rosters will also take a different shape with players deciding to opt out due to COVID-19. The Pats have had the most players opt out with six, including three starters in Hightower, Chung and Cannon.

The NFL season is scheduled to begin on Thursday, Sept. 10 when the Houston Texans visit the Kansas City Chiefs. The Pats' 2020 slate will start on Sunday, Sept. 13