FOXBORO, Mass. (WPRI) — At least six players from the New England Patriots are reportedly planning to opt out of the 2020 season, according to reports from ESPN.
On Tuesday it was announced that three more Patriots would not suit up this fall in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes a big one. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower will not play this season, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Shortly after Schefter announced Hightower’s decision, ESPN’s Mike Reiss added that running back Brandon Bolden is also opting out.
Later in the morning on Tuesday, veteran safety Patrick Chung told Reiss that he also plans to opt out, becoming the sixth player on the Pats to do so.
According to ESPN, Hightower, 30, became a father for the first time on July 16 and told teammates Devin and Jason McCourty on their “Double Coverage” podcast this week, “I don’t have any words to describe it. Asking what to look forward to and expect, it was that and then some.” His mother also has diabetes.
A three-time Super Bowl Champion and team captain, Hightower was scheduled to make $8 million this year, which would have been his ninth season with New England. The contract will now toll to the 2021 season, according to ESPN.
Losing Hightower is a big blow to the Patriots’ defense after losing linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins in free agency.
Another staple on the defense, Chung, 32, was set to enter his 12th NFL season, 11 of which he’s spent with the Patriots.
Another three-time Super Bowl Champion and member of the New England Patriots 2010s All-Decade Team, Chung had agreed to a two-year extension in May that included a $2 million signing bonus and a base salary of $1.1 million.
Chung is another player with a child on the way.
Bolden, 30, was set to enter his ninth NFL season and eighth in New England. He is a core special teams player who provides valuable depth on offense.
Bolden was set to earn $1.3 million in base salary in 2020, which was the final year of his contract. That will now toll to 2021, according to ESPN.
Chung, Hightower, and Bolden are joining offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, fullback Danny Vitale — who just came to New England from the Green Bay Packers — and interior offensive lineman Najee Toran.
Cannon is a cancer survivor — he had Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma back in 2011. With Offensive Line Coach Dante Scarnecchia retired, filing that hole will be a challenge in front of a new quarterback this fall.
The Patriots’ 80 man roster is now down to 74. Training Camp at Gillette Stadium began Monday with the first round of testing players for COVID-19.