Instead of serving as the New England Patriots’ starting strong safety and one of the team’s veteran leaders and starting defenders, Patrick Chung will spend the 2020 NFL season on the sidelines: the 32-year-old is one of six Patriots to exercise the Coronavirus opt-out clause that the NFL and NFLPA agreed to add to the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
While Chung’s decision will undoubtably have an impact on New England’s defense and locker room, opting out of the 2020 campaign was not a hard call for him — at least when it comes to his reasoning: he put his family first and therefore decided to step away from the game this year in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. The veteran defender reaffirmed his reasoning in a recent interview with CBS.
“Of course, it was a tough decision,” said Chung about opting out. “You want to play football. I’m in the latter end of my career, so I wanted to play football. But when it comes down to it, I feel money is not that important. My family... I have a girlfriend, who is 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 just decided to do that. It’s not over, it’s just postponed a little bit.”
If not for his opt-out, Chung would have entered his 11th season as a member of the Patriots.
He originally arrived in New England as a second-round draft pick in 2009 and after a mediocre first four seasons and a one-year stint in Philadelphia developed into a core member of the organization’s Dynasty 2.0: Chung was a starter in the team’s secondary after his return from the Eagles in 2014, and grew to become one of the best strong safeties in all of football. Despite his impressive résumé, however, he still decided to opt out of the 2020 season.
As for his decision, meanwhile, it was apparently not impacted by the NFL’s response to the pandemic but rather his own personal situation.
“It has nothing to do with the league,” said Chung about opting out. “We had no idea this Covid was coming. The league are doing their precautions, trying to keep people safe. So, it’s nothing with the league. It’s just more about people having different situations and different families. I just happen to have a certain situation where I had to make the best decision for my family. That’s what I did.”
Before opting out, however, the three-time Super Bowl champion had to talk with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick about his decision. While he pointed out that the conversation was private, Chung did say a few words about the future Hall of Famer and his relationship with his players.
“He understands that it’s a serious pandemic going on; he totally got it,” said Chung. “You guys think Bill is like this drill sergeant, but he’s actually a very caring person. He totally understood, and that was it. It was a short phone call.”
Chung, as noted above, was not the only Patriot to call it a season: linebacker Dont’a Hightower, offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, running back Brandon Bolden, fullback Danny Vitale, and interior offensive lineman Najee Toran also opted out of the 2020 season. While the expectation is that no other players will join them, Chung noted that he would not be in a position to speak about his teammates’ intentions.
“I can’t really speak on those guys,” he said. “I know a lot of guys are thinking it is a scary situation. And whatever they decide, that’s on them. I can’t really speak for them. Like I said, everyone has a different situation. Some people don’t have people at high risk in their household or around them. Hopefully, whatever they do they make the right decision that is going to keep their families healthy, keep them healthy and be safe.”