Devin McCourty didn’t hold back on a Sunday afternoon video conference with New England media.
The Patriots veteran safety took no questions during a six-minute session, choosing instead to make an impassioned statement about his belief that people need to stay attuned to the equality problems in the United States.
McCourty pledged his support for the cause of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by Louisville police when a shootout began after authorities burst into her home with a “no-knock warrant.”
McCourty also spoke about healthcare inequities, the “digital divide” underprivileged students face because some don’t have access to technology and the internet for remote learning, efforts to reach out and listen to minorities involved in law enforcement and the need for the NFL to have more diversity in coaching and personnel.
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McCourty then took aim at the league for reportedly trying to move up an agreed-upon deadline for players to “opt out” prior to the 2020 season.
A source told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, “Teams are concerned that some players who think they won’t make the team are choosing to opt out and to take the six-figure stipend." While players apparently would owe the money back to the teams if they fail to make the roster in 2021, no team wants to have to chase a former player around next year in an effort to retrieve $150,000 or $350,000.
“Another concern comes from an issue we’ve previously flagged: Some agents, per the source, are using the threat of an opt out as leverage to get their clients new contracts.”
“It’s an absolute joke that the NFL is changing the opt-out period, mainly because they don’t want to continue to see guys opt out,” McCourty said. “I’m sure they’re shocked about how many guys have opted out. But it’s the same thing when we sign the CBA, sometimes some of those things that we think are good, sometimes backfire. You know, we have rookies who are locked in long-term contracts and tagged and tagged. You guys don’t think we would love to change that about the CBA? But we can’t. That’s the point of signing an agreement.
“So I think it’s terrible. I think it’s BS that the league [wants to change] that date.”
So far, eight Patriots have opted out. The latest was tight end Matt Lacosse who reportedly opted out Sunday. Wide receiver Marqise Lee also opted out this weekend.
McCourty seemed to indicate he was still mulling his ultimate decision. Separately, he explained to me that – if he did want to opt out for family reasons at any time – the passing of an opt-out deadline wouldn’t prevent him from doing so.
McCourty encouraged players to understand the power they have right now.
"Monday will be our first day in the building, so to try to act like guys are trying to make a decision about something other than virtual meetings is a joke," he said. "When players understand how much power we have, we've seen things change for us; primarily even with this deal, with the COVID-19 and trying to get everything back. We saw some of that strength. Hopefully we'll see how everything turns out come Wednesday, if it ends up being the deadline.
"I support guys no matter what they decide, but I'm still out here having fun and figuring things out. So we'll see how we go."
The NFL and NFLPA agreed to a host of changes to the CBA to get through the 2020 season but those changes have not been finalized. The opt-out deadline was supposed to be a week after the deal was done. Because of the delay getting it done, the opt-out deadline keeps moving further down the road.
And the concern from some teams seems to be that a player who’s destined for the bubble may see the writing on the wall and opt-out. It’s a cynical concern but it’s also not beyond the realm for a player who was already on the fence about playing and then realizes he’s a longshot.
The other concern according to Florio is players threatening to opt out if they’re not given a new deal. Florio pointed out he hadn’t heard of that happening but he noted, “For plenty of players, a significant bump in compensation could be the difference between opting out and opting in.”
Objectively speaking, players and coaches are the ones taking the personal medical risk. Owners aren’t. For a key player to say, “What will you do to make it worth my while? What’s the additional hazard pay?” is not that absurd.
NFL players don’t often use their leverage. McCourty, it seems, is hoping they start to.