Patriots

Patriots' Patrick Chung explains opt-out decision, how he told Bill Belichick

Patriots

Patrick Chung agreed to a two-year contract extension this offseason to stay with the New England Patriots through 2023, but you won't see him on the field in 2020.

The veteran safety is one of six Patriots players and a handful of players on other teams who have opted out of the 2020 NFL season.

During an interview Wednesday on CBS This Morning, Chung said he made the decision to prioritize the health of his family as COVID-19 continues to spread in the United States.

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"Of course it's a tough decision. You want to play football," Chung said. "I'm at the latter end of my career, so I wanted to play football. But when it comes down to it, I feel that money is not that important.

"I have a girlfriend that's pregnant, a baby girl coming soon, my son has a little asthma, my dad is 75 years old. I just felt like this was the best decision for my family to keep everyone safe. I don't think it's fair to them. So, I decided to do that. It's not over; it's just postponed a little bit."

Chung raised concerns about being able to "socially distance football" earlier this month, a sign he was hesitant about playing given his family circumstances. Some players have criticized the NFL for its safety protocols (or lack thereof) entering training camp, but the 32-year-old said his opt-out decision had "nothing to do with" the league.

 

"It's more about people have different situations and different families," Chung said. "I just have a certain situation where I had to make the best decision for my family, so that's what I did."

Chung's presence will be missed as the Patriots' starting strong safety and one of New England's longest-tenured players. The 11-year NFL veteran had to break the news to Bill Belichick via phone call but said the Patriots head coach completely supported his decision.

"That's private, but he understood," Chung said of Belichick. "He understands it's a serious pandemic going on. He totally got it. You guys think Bill is this drill sergeant, but he's actually a very caring person. So, he totally understood and that was it. It was a short phone call."

Chung joins linebacker Dont'a Hightower, running back Brandon Bolden, fullback Danny Vitale, offensive tackle Marcus Cannon and offensive guard Najee Toran among the Patriots who have backed out of the season prior to the first day of training camp Tuesday.

Will we see more Patriots and other NFL players follow suit? In Chung's view, that depends on each player's individual situation and comfort level.

"I know a lot of guys are thinking it's a scary situation," Chung said. "Whatever they decide, that's on them. I can't really speak for them. Like I said, everyone has different situations. Some people don't have people at high risk in their household or around them, so it's a little different. Hopefully, whatever they do, they make the right decision that's going to keep their family healthy, keep them healthy and safe."

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