New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower announced on Tuesday that he will opt out of the 2020 NFL season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Although multiple players have already announced that they will not play, no team’s list is longer than the Patriots.
Hightower joins fellow Patriots running back Brandon Bolden, FB Danny Vitale, OT Marcus Cannon, and OL Najee Toran, who have all decided to opt out well before the season is set to start. As per agreement with the Players Association, players considered high risk will receive $350,000, while players who opt out not considered high risk, will receive $150,000.
Playing without Hightower will be a big hit to the Patriots’ defense. The 30-year-old is a team captain and calls the defensive signals. He was set to take an even larger role on the field this year after linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins left via free agency.
The versatile linebacker has played all over the field for the Patriots and has made some big plays in the playoffs to help New England win 3 Super Bowls during his career. The Covid-19 pandemic adds additional intrigue to a tumultuous offseason for the Patriots, after franchise QB Tom Brady signed with Tampa Bay in March.