Sports | July 28, 2020 2:00 pm

The New England Patriots Have Already Lost 4 Starters to COVID Opt-Outs

Quarterback isn't the only position Bill Belichick will have to figure out

New England Patriots Have Already Lost 4 Starters to Opt-Outs
New England Patriots teammates Patrick Chung (23) and Dont'a Hightower (54). (Jim Davis/Boston Globe via Getty)
Boston Globe via Getty Images

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, quarterback isn’t the only position where the New England Patriots will be tasked with deploying a new starter in 2020.

In addition to replacing Tom Brady at QB, Patriots coach Bill Belichick will need to replace safety Patrick Chung, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, right tackle Marcus Cannon and fullback Danny Vitale in the team’s starting lineup, as all four of those players have opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns.

Guard Najee Toran and running back Brandon Bolden, a key player on special teams, have also informed New England they will not be playing in the 2020 NFL season.

For a team that was likely going to have to revert to running the ball and playing good defense to win games in the wake of Brady’s departure to Tampa Bay, the losses of longtime starter Cannon and team captain Hightower are especially concerning. Belichick will now have to figure all of this out over the next six weeks before the NFL season begins in September. At least one NFL executive thinks he will …

After word of the opt-outs was released, Brady and former Patriot Rob Gronkowski had a Twitter interaction that some believe may have been a veiled shot at their old team following the news.

Elsewhere in the NFL, Chicago Bears starting defensive lineman Eddie Goldman will opt out of the 2020 season due to health concerns related to the coronavirus, as will Kansas City Chiefs starting right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. Former 49ers wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, who the Eagles traded for during April’s draft, has also informed Philadelphia he plans to opt out for the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns.

Per last week’s agreement between the league and the NFLPA, players considered high risk for COVID-19 can earn $350,000 and an accrued NFL season if they opt out of the season, and players without risk can earn $150,000.

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