BOSTON (CBS) — The NFL is hoping to have a somewhat normal 2020 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but if anything is clear at this point, it’s that nothing will be normal in 2020. Amid the concerns of the virus, NFL players have the option to opt out of the season.
Several Patriots players have taken that option, including a few key members of the squad. By the time the Aug. 6 deadline came, a total of eight Patriots players have exercised their ability to opt out — the most of any team in the NFL:
Linebacker Dont’a Hightower
A three-time Super Bowl champ, two-time Pro Bowler and three-time team captain, this one hurts. Hightower is one of the leaders of the New England defense, and he was the only member of the 2019 starting linebacking corps left after Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts left via free agency.
Without Hightower, New England has a gigantic hole to fill in the middle of its defense.
Safety Patrick Chung
A starting safety for the last six seasons, Chung is skipping out on the 2020 season. Veteran Adrian Phillips or rookie Kyle Dugger could take his spot in the secondary.
Right Tackle Marcus Cannon
Cannon has started 50 games over the last four seasons, and 69 of his 115 career games since New England drafted him in 2011.
Running Back Brandon Bolden
Bolden tied his career-high with three rushing touchdowns in 2019, but his impact is much greater on special teams. Bolden is a stalwart on that unit, playing 71 percent of the team’s special teams snaps last season.
Fullback Danny Vitale
Vitale was set to take over for the retired James Develin at fullback. Vitale opted out after becoming a father recently, leaving New England with Jakob Johnson on the depth chart at fullback.
Offensive Lineman Najee Toran
Toran spent last season on New England’s practice squad, and was likely going to compete for a backup job along the offensive line in training camp.
Wide Receiver Marqise Lee
Lee signed a one-year deal with the Patriots in April, but decided to opt out to protect his newborn daughter.
Tight End Matt LaCosse
LaCosse caught 13 passes and one touchdown over 11 games in 2019, playing 38 percent of New England’s offensive snaps. He chose to opt out because his wife is due during the 2020 season.