BOSTON (CBS) — Earlier this offseason, defensive captain Devin McCourty said that he anticipated a return for the Patriots players who opted out of the 2020 season. Now, that informed hunch has been backed by some reporting.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Friday that the “key” players who opted out last year are planning on playing in 2021. That list includes, of course, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung, and tackle Marcus Cannon.

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“Physically, all are in a good place,” Rapoport said.

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The players will, obviously, be a year older, but a year without contact and injuries could be beneficial. That’s especially true for Hightower, who’s played in all 16 games just once in his eight-year career, and also for Chung, whose physical playing style leads to regular appearances on the injury report.

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Rapoport’s tweet did not mention the other Patriots players who opted out, a list that includes fullback Dan Vitale, tight end Matt LaCosse, running back/special teamer Brandon Bolden, receiver Marqise Lee and offensive lineman Najee Toran. Staff