BOSTON (CBS) — In a span of less than 24 hours this week, six Patriots players opted out of playing in the 2020 season, due to COVID-19 concerns. The half-dozen players were by far the most for any team in the league.
According to a new report, though, the number of players opting out likely would have been even larger, if not for the decision of one of the most respected members in the Patriots’ locker room.
Longtime special teams captain Matthew Slater was apparently on the fence about playing in 2020, but ultimately decided that he will indeed play, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. That report also indicated that had Slater decided to opt out, some of his teammates would have made the same decision.
Here’s what Garafolo said on NFL Network:
We were chasing this [Wednesday], Ian Rapoport and I, because I was told that Slater was leaning toward opting out. And Rapoport eventually tracked down Slater, who said, ‘No, it was a tough decision, but I will be playing.’ So there you go, Patriots fans. A little glimmer of hope for you this year that you didn’t lose another guy.
And by the way, [Slater] being a team captain, I gather that some other guys were looking towards Slater to see what he was going to do. So it’s possible that this list could have grown even more if Slater had opted out. But Matt Slater, team captain, will be there to break down the huddles in the postgame locker room and lead this team toward wherever they’re going.
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) July 30, 2020
If the NFL season does take place this year, the Patriots will be taking the field without Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Marcus Cannon, Brandon Bolden, Danny Vitale and Najee Toran. They will be with Slater, and based on that report, Bill Belichick was spared having to deal with the loss of even more players in what is already a challenging upcoming season.