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First things first: Opting out was the right decision for Eddie Goldman. There should be absolutely no criticizing the 320-pound Goldman for putting his health first and making what surely was a difficult decision, as reported by NFL Network, amid the dangerous and deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

So there needs to be recognition from anyone reading this that playing football in a pandemic is dangerous. There’s no social distancing on the field, and even with teams taking cautious protocols to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside facilities, there’s no guarantee those will work without a true bubble environment in place (the Miami Marlins' outbreak is an extremely cautionary tale). So the NFL and NFLPA agreed to allow players to opt out; Goldman decided to, and his decision must be met with respect.

So the primary fallout here is Goldman, a 2020 Pro Bowl alternate, will not play a season of football in his prime as a pandemic rages in the United States. But the secondary fallout is the Bears’ defense will be worse because of his absence.

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As interior offensive lineman Cody Whitehair put it to me a few years ago: “A guy like Eddie is vital to having a 3-4 defense against the run, because he eats up the double team.”

Goldman may not make highlight reels or stuff stat sheets, but the impact he makes on a weekly basis is felt by everyone on the field with him. Danny Trevathan called him an inside linebacker’s “best friend” for his ability to absorb double teams, allowing players like Trevathan and Roquan Smith to shoot through gaps and hit running backs near the line of scrimmage.

 

And since most NFL defenses primarily operate out of nickel these days, Goldman’s impact is even more important.

“It just takes two guys in there who have to be able to control the inside in nickel,” former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said in 2018. “And he’s one of the main two for us.” (Akiem Hicks being the other.)

The good news for the Bears is they have strong defensive line depth and a tremendous position coach in Jay Rodgers, who’s been with the team since 2015. Hicks, Bilal Nichols and Roy Robertson-Harris are an established trio, while veteran John Jenkins was brought in on a one-year contract. Jenkins, likely, will play quite a bit of nose tackle in Goldman’s absence, though Rodgers cross-trains all his linemen to play every technique, so he'll have rotational flexibility there. 

MORE: Twitter reacts to Eddie Goldman opting out

Still, the Bears’ defense will be worse off in 2020 without Goldman. They also won’t be the only team to lose something on the field when a player opts out; earlier Tuesday, New England Patriots linebacker Donta Hightower opted out of the 2020 season.

But the main point here is not that the Bears’ defense will be less dominant in 2020. The main point is Goldman did not feel comfortable playing football as COVID-19 rages in our country. And that’s a feeling and decision we all need to respect.

 

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