Six New England Patriots players already have opted out of the 2020 NFL season, but that number apparently was very close to growing.

Patriots special teams ace and co-captain Matthew Slater told NFL Media's Ian Rapoport he plans to play in 2020, via NFL Media's Mike Garafolo.

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Garafolo reported that Slater was "leaning toward opting out" of the season before making the "tough decision" to play this fall.

Losing Slater would have been a tough blow for a Patriots team that already will be without veteran leaders Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Marcus Cannon and Brandon Bolden this season in addition to Danny Vitale and Najee Toran.

The 34-year-old special teamer is the longest-tenured player in New England following Tom Brady's departure and is a tone-setter in the locker room.

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Now that Slater has opted in, Garafolo suggested that might stem the tide of Patriots players choosing to sit out the 2020 season.

"He being a team captain, I gather that some other guys were looking to Slater to see what he was going to do," Garafolo said. "So it's possible this list could have grown even more if he had opted out."

It's still possible more Patriots players and others around the league decide to sit out in 2020 due to concerns about COVID-19, as several more NFL players opted out Wednesday as training camps began.


It appears New England's de facto team leader won't be among them, though.