After three members of the New England Patriots already decided to opt out of the NFL’s 2020 season on Monday, three more followed them on Tuesday. Among them was the highest-profile player to make this decision to date: linebacker Dont’a Hightower, a three-time Super Bowl winner and team captain will be one of the players to not take the field this year over Coronavirus concerns.
While Hightower voluntarily opting out hurts the Patriots’ defense — he is one of its best and most experienced players, and has served as the unit’s on-field signal caller for the last few years — the reason for it is not hard to find: the 30-year-old and his fiancee, Morgan, welcomed their first kid not even two weeks ago. The decision was therefore made with his family in mind, as the long-time Patriot reiterated on social media on Tuesday afternoon.
Hightower shared the following message addressed to New England’s fans:
Pats Nation, you have supported my unconditionally over the last 8 years. Through Super Bowl Victories (3 of em!), season ending injuries, the occasional boomtower TD, strip sacks, charity events and everything in between. I appreciate that support more than you know, and I appreciate that same support and understanding now more than ever.
This wasn’t an easy decision, or one I made lightly, but I do feel that it’s the best decision for my family at this time. I’m so grateful for the support of my teammates and coaches as well, and I will try to continue to lead and help as much as I can. 2020 has been a challenging year for our world. I hope you can all continue to be a light in these dark times — more light and great times are ahead. Thank you and stay safe!
Hightower was originally scheduled to enter unrestricted free agency next year, but his voluntary decision to skip the 2020 season means that he will be under contract for the 2021 season still — meaning that a return could very well still be in the cards. Until then, however, he will watch the team from afar just like fellow defender Patrick Chung as well as offensive linemen Marcus Cannon and Najee Toran, running back Brandon Bolden and fullback Danny Vitale.
Hightower’s post itself looks as follows: