(Updates with Hightower comments, Patriots reaction)
July 28 (Reuters) – New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung and Chicago Bears defensive tackle Eddie Goldman decided to skip the next NFL season amid the pandemic of COVID-19, US media reported Tuesday.
Six players in the six-time Super Bowl-winning patriots have decided to opt out of the season, ESPN reported https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/29551606/source-patriots-donta- hightower -opt-2020-season, as the NFL opened training grounds for all players on Tuesday.
Reports do not specify why Hightower and Chung had decided to skip the season, although Goldman cited concerns about COVID-19 in their decision, according to the NFL Network.
Hightower, whose girlfriend gave birth earlier this month, posted a message to “Pats Nation” on her Twitter account, thanking fans for their support.
“This was not an easy decision, or I took it lightly, but I think it is the best decision for my family at the moment,” Hightower said.
A Chicago Bears spokesman said the team had no official statement to share. A Patriots spokesman said they could not confirm that any player has chosen not to participate, citing the “formal process” that all players must submit to the league to do so.
In an open letter to fans, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday that COVID-19 remains a “big challenge” and that players can expect daily tests “for a while” as the league adopts improved safety precautions.
The Minnesota Vikings infection control officer tested positive for COVID-19, the team said Monday, while the Miami Dolphins have put three players on their “reserve / COVID-19” list.
New cases of COVID-19 are on the rise in the United States, including Florida, where three NFL franchises, including the Dolphins, play, as well as Texas, Arizona and California.
In an ominous signal for leagues hoping to play outside the so-called “bubble,” Major League Baseball was quick to control a mounting crisis, as 17 Miami Marlins players also tested positive, casting doubt on the season of the MLB. (Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Toby Davis and Ken Ferris)
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