There's been a sizable contingent of players across the NFL who have elected to opt out of the 2020 season due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Patriots were the team arguably impacted the most as these moves came across the bulletin. A total of six New England players decided to sit out of the 2020 season, including three full-time starters: linebacker Dont'a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung, and right tackle Marcus Cannon.
That exit of a half-dozen Patriots is the largest one team has faced thus far, but head coach Bill Belichick isn't holding any grudges towards those opting out. Quite the opposite, in fact. Chung noted on "CBS This Morning" earlier this week that his conversation with Belichick regarding his opt-out went well and "he totally got it." With that in mind, it was no surprise to hear the head coach relay similar feelings when asked about it during his Friday videoconference.
"Well, I respect all of them. I respect all of the players on our team," he said of his players opting out. "We all have to make decisions and I talked to those guys and they explained their situations. They had to make a decision that was best for them and I totally respect and support it 100%."
The number of Patriots opting out almost grew by at least one as team captain Matthew Slater nearly decided to sit out the year, but then made the decision to play. As for whether or not more Patriots are anticipated to opt out, Belichick said he wasn't sure what the future will bring.
"I think everybody's got to make their own individual decisions on that," he said. "They have to weigh their own situation. Each one of us is unique and we all have different lives, situations, families, environments, and so forth and so on. There's no two situations that are the same. Everybody will have to make their own decision on that.
"My crystal ball is kind of cloudy right now, so I have no idea what will happen along those lines. I think everybody in the league, every team in the league, every player, every coach, everybody in the league is involved in that to some degree. We'll just have to see how it turns out."
Belichick opened his conference by saying that safety will be the top priority as New England begins camp and credited Robert Kraft for upgrading Gillette Stadium "to the highest level" to create a safe working environment.