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Notable NFL players choose to opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19

Several Patriots stars are opting out along with the first medical doctor to play in the NFL.

NFL: JAN 29 Super Bowl LIV - Chiefs Press Conference Photo by Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With a pandemic raging across the United States, the NFL and NFLPA agreed upon protocols to start the league’s 2020 season amid one of the most significant public health issues in memory. One of the stipulations put in place in the amendments to the collective bargaining agreement was giving players the choice to opt out of the 2020 campaign.

The agreement specifies that players who do opt out will have their contract toll, meaning that all remaining provisions of their existing contract will carry over one year. In other words, a player signed for only 2020 will have this year’s contract apply to 2021; a player signed beyond 2020 will have all future years of their contract shifted back a year. Players will also have the opportunity to receive either a stipend or an advance on their 2021 salary, depending on the risk factors leading into their decision.

Per the new CBA as reported by ESPN, opting out players fall into one of two categories. The first is players who are considered to be at high risk to COVID-19; these players will receive a $350,000 stipend and credit for an accrued season towards free agency status. Meanwhile, players who are not considered high risk will receive a $150,000 advance in 2020, meaning that this money will come out of their salary in 2021. Additionally, these players will not earn an accrued season. All players’ contracts still toll to 2021, however, regardless of their risk category.

So far, several notable players around the NFL have chosen to opt out for 2020. The first was Kansas City Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who graduated from Canada’s McGill University in 2018 with an M.D. Since May, LDT has been fighting COVID-19 as an orderly in a long-term care facility — although he has his degree, he is not licensed to practice medicine because he has yet to perform a residency program. But he announced his decision to stay in the medical field through the 2020 season over the weekend.

As of Tuesday morning, several other prominent players are joining LDT in opting out. New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower is sitting out 2020, and he is being joined by several fellow Patriots. Among that group are starting right tackle Marcus Cannon, who is deemed a high-risk player, starting safety Patrick Chung, and former Packers fullback Dan Vitale.

Chicago Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman also announced his intention to opt out on Tuesday. Goldman, a five-year veteran, was heading into the third year of a five-year contract extension at age 26.

Notable NFL Players Opting Out

This is not an exhaustive list of the players choosing to sit out the 2020 season, but stay tuned here for more updates on additional notable individuals as more players announce their intent to opt out.

Note: this article has been updated to clarify details about the salary advance and stipend provisions.