The New England Patriots suffered some serious losses during the 2020 offseason that impacted how the team performed during the season. Not only did core players such as quarterback Tom Brady and linebacker Kyle Van Noy leave via free agency, they also had to watch a league-high eight players exercise the Coronavirus opt-out over the summer.
While not every player on that list was guaranteed a starting role, or even a spot on the 53-man roster, the sum of the opt-outs left the team’s depth thinner than desired in some areas. It also created issues at positions like linebacker and tight end that were already understaffed heading towards training camp. As a result, an argument can be made that the opt-outs added another layer to what already shaped up to be a difficult 2020 campaign.
Just don’t tell Lawrence Guy.
The Patriots team captain and starting defensive tackle appeared on SiriusXM Radio earlier this week and was asked his thoughts about the opt-outs hurting New England last year. Guy, however, does not think they would have made much of a difference for the club.
“There were a few players that opted out, and there were a few players that stepped up where you got to see their potential and see them strive [toward] who they were going to be and who they’re becoming to be,” he said. “But at the end of the day, those players that opted out, that weren’t on that field playing in the game, they didn’t win or lose a game for us. The players that were on the field are the people that won or lost the game.”
Employing the personnel available, and going through some serious in-season lineup changes along the way, New England finished its 2020 campaign with a 7-9 record. As a result of its first losing season since 2000, the team also missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.
However, Guy would not deflect any blame on those that decided to sit out the year over concerns about the pandemic.
“The games we lost, we lost as a team. The games we won, we won as a team,” he said. “It wasn’t one unit or one play that you would say, ‘This or this is why we didn’t win the game.’ This year, we had a challenge that we had to face, and some of those challenges were nail-biters. It came to the last play, the last quarter, the last series, and we weren’t able to finish it. That’s how I look at it.
“I can’t call somebody, ‘If you didn’t opt out this would have changed everything!’ No. That wouldn’t have changed much. We still had to go out and perform to our best, and there were games where we didn’t perform to our best and we lost. And there were games where we did get dominated and were like, ‘This was embarrassing, we need to do better.’ So, I don’t think the opting out was a big situation.”
Among the eight Patriots that opted out of the 2020 season were starters such as linebacker Dont’a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung and offensive tackle Marcus Cannon. The three were joined by running back/special teamer Brandon Bolden, tight end Matt LaCosse, wide receiver Marqise Lee as well as fullback Danny Vitale and guard Najee Toran.
New England would obviously have been a more talented team with some of these players in the fold last year, but whether or not that would have translated into more wins or even a postseason berth can only be speculated upon. The matter of fact remains that the team failed to reach .500 and qualify for the postseason with the players that were available and had to replace the likes of Hightower, Chung and others.
For Guy, however, it all came down to performing with those available players.
“I feel like we needed to do something on the field and we didn’t really do what we planned on doing.”