While many view Bill Belichick as this curmudgeon of a head coach, "The Hoodie" seems to be a pretty level-headed guy behind the scenes. Sure, he oftentimes makes ruthless roster and personnel decisions as the leader of the New England Patriots, but when it comes to serious issues like the current COVID-19 pandemic, he's not one to hold a grudge if a player decides to opt out of 2020.
A total of six Patriots players -- including three full-time starters -- made that very decision on Tuesday and will sit out the entire 2020 season due to coronavirus concerns. Safety Patrick Chung is one of those starters, and the three-time Super Bowl champion pulled back the curtain a bit to his brief conversation with Belichick when informing the head coach that he'd be sitting 2020 out.
"He understood," Chung told "CBS This Morning" on Wednesday. "He understands it's a serious pandemic going on. He totally got it. You guys think Bill is like this drill sergeant, but he's actually a very caring person. He totally understood and that was it. It was a short phone call."
Linebacker Dont'a Hightower, right tackle Marcus Cannon, running back Brandon Bolden, fullback Danny Vitale and reserve offensive lineman Najee Toran were the other Patriots to opt out of the season. All of these players elected to sit out for various reasons. For example, Cannon is a cancer survivor after battling non-Hodgkin's lymphoma when he was coming into the league in 2011. He is in a high-risk category for COVID-19, which was a main factor in deciding to opt out.
As for Chung, he explained that he has a number of family matters that led to his decision.
"Of course it's a tough decision," he said. "You want to play football. I'm at the latter half of my career so I wanted to play football, but when it comes down to it, I feel money is not that important. I have a girlfriend that's pregnant, baby girl coming soon, my son has a little asthma, my dad is 75 years old, so I just felt like this was the best decision for my family to keep everyone safe."
Chung was set to enter his 12th season in the NFL in 2020 and 11th with the Patriots under Bill Belichick. With him on the sideline, New England will likely turn to 2020 second-round pick in safety Kyle Dugger to help cushion the blow of Chung's absence.
Of course, COVID-19 is poised to loom large over the NFL all year as long as a vaccine to the virus is still in development, which leaves open the possibility of a canceled or shorted season. Chung is hopeful the NFL will be able to play the entire slate, but cautiously noted, "Only time will tell."