August 3 is the deadline for NFL players to tell their teams they're opting out of the 2020 NFL season. This week has already brought news of multiple players doing just that, but strangely, they're mostly coming from one team in particular: the New England Patriots. Pro Bowl linebacker Dont'a Hightower notified the team of his decision to skip the season this morning, with Patrick Chung doing the same soon after. Marcus Cannon announced his intentions to miss the season last night. All in all, six Patriots have already decided to opt out with a week to go before the deadline.
Since the mysticism of Bill Belichick and New England is larger than life at this point, the conspiracy theories are already flying about why so many Pats are missing the season and why New England appears to be the only team so far losing major contributors -- outside of Kansas City losing its starting guard. Is he tanking for Trevor Lawrence? How is Belichick benefiting from this? These are apparently real thoughts going through real people's minds.
I very much doubt there is a master plan going on here, where Belichick convinces good players to not play this season for some grander goal. Unless that goal is to convince everyone that having an NFL season in the middle of a pandemic isn't a good idea, in which case I heartily endorse the idea. But with six already gone and more to come, Belichick should seriously consider following in their footsteps and sitting out 2020 as well.
Belichick is 68. That is the most important justification here. He's smack in the middle of the danger zone for those most impacted by COVID-19. Without a bubble of some type, it is matter of when, not if, an outbreak occurs in the NFL. There is a fairly high chance right now the league doesn't even come close to finishing the season. Health transcends everything right now.
Now, on the significantly less important football side of things, there are some advantages to Belichick and others sitting out. Like, say, ending up with a shot at the No. 1 overall pick in next year's draft and the aforementioned Lawrence, heralded as one of the best QB prospects to come out of the NCAA in years. He would also get the chance to see if Josh McDaniels really does have what it takes to succeed him in Foxborough. It would be an unfortunate missed opportunity to coach Cam Newton for pennies on the dollar, but the other advantages could outweigh that.
As hilarious as it would be to see Lawrence in a Patriots uniform actually come to fruition, I just don't want anything to happen to Belichick. It's a huge risk to take in a very scary situation. Football is the man's livelihood, but it's still just football. Just consider it, Bill.