The New England Patriots are set to get eight players back from the Coronavirus opt-out list heading into the 2020 season. While it remains to be seen whether or not all of them eventually return — linebacker Dont’a Hightower and offensive tackle Marcus Cannon are no safe bets to continue their careers — two are on their way to re-join the club after a one-year hiatus.
While running back Brandon Bolden took to social media to confirm that he will be back in 2021, wide receiver Marqise Lee spoke with ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss about continuing his career after the opt-out.
“I got to Boston on Sunday, did the physical and everything was perfect. As far as this year goes, I’m eager to get back,” the 29-year-old said.
Lee originally signed a one-year contract with the Patriots in April, after spending the first six years of his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Just three months later, however, he exercised the opt-out clause in order to protect his newborn daughter, Alia. Now, he appears to be ready for a return even though the NFL’s plans for the offseason and subsequent 2021 campaign will ultimately help make the decision.
Lee was back in New England to participate in an end-of-year physical the Patriots asked their eight opt-outs to take. That group does not only consist of Lee, Bolden, Hightower and Cannon, but also safety Patrick Chung, fullback Danny Vitale, tight end Matt LaCosse and offensive lineman Najee Toran.
Head coach Bill Belichick recently noted that he did not have “a lot” of contact to those players during the season, but that the team would get in touch with them again once the Patriots’ season is over. New England played its last game in early January, improving its record to 7-9 but still missing out on qualifying for the postseason tournament.
“I’m sure that when the season’s over, we’ll reconvene with them,” said Belichick. “I don’t know that any of us know a lot about what next month is going to look like or next year is going to look like, so it may be hard for... I’m not saying they have or haven’t made decisions, but it might be hard for them or, honestly, somebody else whose circumstances may have changed to make a decision on that until we all know more or have more information.
“The league will have to set up some kind of system next year. Whether it reverts back to what it was or whether it gets modified or whether it’s something similar to this year, there’s a lot of unanswered questions there.”
As for Lee, he is one of nine wide receivers currently under contract with the Patriots for the 2021 season. He is far from a lock to make the team’s roster, however, after having only a minimal impact over his last three years in the league: due to knee and shoulder injuries as well as his Covid-19 opt-out, Lee has appeared in only six of a possible 48 games since 2018.