Sporting News thankfully is safe from the wrath of Patriots safety Patrick Chung, as SN’s Bill Bender on Wednesday explained why it’s so ridiculous to suggest coach Bill Belichick is the mastermind behind the alarming number of New England players choosing to opt out of the season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chung, 32, is one of the six Patriots players who as of Thursday morning had opted out for 2020. Because the rest of the NFL is perpetually terrified of Belichick, many — including at least one team executive — immediately crafted a conspiracy theory that the Patriots coach is trying to improve his team’s salary cap space and/or draft position with the player opt-outs.
Chung and former Patriots cornerback Darius Butler aren’t here for the “dumb” theories, to borrow the safety’s word.
MORE: Complete list of NFL players opting out
Chung appeared on “CBS This Morning” on Wednesday and explained his reason behind opting out, citing the importance of his family’s safety over the money he would have earned in 2020. Chung’s opt-out appears voluntary, which means he’ll earn a salary advance of $150,000 this year rather than the $4.85 million he was scheduled to receive. His contract will toll to 2021.
Asked what Belichick said when Chung told the coach he had decided to opt out, the safety said the details of their discussion are “private,” but he did offer a little info.
“He understands there’s a serious pandemic going on,” Chung said. “He totally got it. Bill, you guys think he’s this drill sergeant, but he’s actually a very caring person. So he totally understood and that was it. It was a short phone call.”
Five of the six Patriots players who have opted out of the 2020 season — Chung, Dont’a Hightower, Dan Vitale, Brandon Bolden and Najee Toran — did so voluntarily. Right tackle Marcus Cannon opted out because he is a cancer survivor and at a high risk regarding COVID-19.
IYER: How the Pats can replace those who opted out
The NFL and the NFL Players Association on July 24 reached an agreement on opt-out rules so players could make their own decisions. The contracts for all players who opt out will toll to 2021, and those who opt out for medical reasons because they are at high risk regarding COVID-19 will receive $350,000 for the season. Those who opt out voluntarily will receive $150,000 for the season. (Undrafted rookies who opt out voluntarily are not eligible to earn the $150,000 stipend.)
NFL players reportedly have until Thursday, Aug. 6, or seven days after the CBA modification is finalized, to decide whether to opt out of the 2020 season and earn the stipends/contract tolling.