BOSTON (CBS) — Patrick Chung knows that his NFL career is winding down. The Patriots safety will turn 33 in August, and after 11 seasons in the league, he probably only has a few more years left as a professional football player.
But when it came to playing football this year, amid an ongoing global pandemic, Chung has very little doubt that opting out was the best decision for him and his family.
Chung is one of six Patriots players to opt out of the upcoming season, which he admitted was not an easy decision to make. He’d love to be out there for Bill Belichick as the Patriots open a new chapter without Tom Brady at quarterback. But when weighing the risks that go with playing football during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was really only one decision to make for Chung.
“I’m in the latter end of my career so I wanted to play football, but when it comes down to it, money is just not that important,” Chung said during a Wednesday morning interview on CBS This Morning. “My girlfriend is pregnant with a baby girl coming soon. My son has asthma. My dad is 75 years old. I felt like this was the best decision for my family to keep everyone safe. I don’t think it’s fair to them, so I decided to do that.
“It’s not over,” he said of his career. “It’s just postponed a little bit.”
Chung wouldn’t go into details about his phone call to his head coach to tell him he was opting out, but said that Belichick was very understanding.
“He understands this is a serious pandemic going on. He totally got it,” said Chung. “You guys think Bill is some drill sergeant, but he’s a caring person. It was a short phone call.”
Chung’s teammates are reporting to training camp at Gillette Stadium this week, though it won’t look anything like a normal training camp. Players spent the last few days getting COVID tests, and daily tests will follow for the first two weeks of camp. Those whose initial tests come back negative will begin what the league is calling an “acclimation period” next week. Players won’t put on pads until mid-August.
The Patriots currently have more opt outs than any other team in the NFL. More could soon be joining Chung on that list, with Monday the deadline for players to opt out of the season.
“I know a lot of guys are thinking. This is a scary situation,” he said. “What they decide, I can’t speak for them, but everyone has different situations. Some people don’t have high-risk people in their household or around them. Hopefully, whatever they do, they make the right decision that will keep their family healthy, keep themselves healthy and be safe.”
Certain aspects of the league still need to be ironed out, but the NFL is going to try to play the 2020 season as though it’s a normal one — minus a preseason and fans in the stands. Chung is hopeful that the league can play its full slate of games starting in September, because that would indicate that the pandemic is improving around the country.
“I pray so. That would mean this corona stuff is getting better. But as of now it’s still a dangerous thing, so I don’t know,” he said. “I hope there is for the sake of fans and for people to take care of their families, young players. But if it gets worse, I don’t see it happening. It’s about safety.
“Hopefully it gets better and the season can go. Only time will tell,” he said.