One of the key elements in the agreement between the league and the NFLPA last week was that players could opt out of the upcoming, COVID-19 impacted season. That's happening now, with names including a quality starter for the Super Bowl champs and several players for another of the AFC's best teams. There will be more.
Kansas City guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif was the first to opt out of the season, last Friday. Duvernay-Tardif is an interesting guy. He has a medical doctorate; there was a really good story about him in Sports Illustrated last year. In announcing his decision, he wrote, "Being at the frontline during this offseason has given me a different perspective on this pandemic and the stress it puts on individuals and our healthcare system. I cannot allow myself to potentially transmit the virus in our communities simply to play the sport that I love. If I am to take risks, I will do it caring for patients."
There are two kinds of opt outs: voluntary, like Duvernay-Tardif, which comes with a payment of $150,000; and high-risk, which would be for players with certain medical conditions or family situations that make it more dangerous for them to play. That comes with a $350,000 stipend.
These opt out decisions are irrevocable; Duvernay-Tardif is done for the season. So are a handful of Patriots, including safety Patrick Chung, linebacker Donta Hightower, right tackle Marcus Cannon and running back Brandon Bolden. And the week is young. (Players have one week from the labor agreement being finalized to opt out, so there will be more players over the remainder of the week.)
A coach who isn't opting out -- but whose perspective on the whole thing is especially stark -- is Tampa Bay's Bruce Arians. A cancer survivor (three-time), Arians stepped away from the NFL once before over health concerns, and no one would fault him if he did so now. But he's planning to coach, while taking extra precautions; mask, face shield, etc.
If anyone is thinking of having a fantasy draft in the next five days: Don't. There will be other opt-outs, including some skill guys and maybe other key starters. The Patriots defense, certainly, looks less appealing today with Hightower and Chung gone.