Hightower’s decision was confirmed by two people familiar with the situation after it was first reported by ESPN. Hightower, 30, also confirmed the decision in a message to NFL Network in which he said: “Me and my fiancee are just more concerned with the health of our family than football — especially the new addition to our family.” Hightower’s son was born this month.
Patriots safety Patrick Chung told ESPN that he is also opting out, becoming the sixth New England player known to have decided against playing. Other Patriots players to opt out reportedly include running back Brandon Bolden, tackle Marcus Cannon, guard Najee Toran and fullback Danny Vitale. Cannon was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma before beginning his NFL career, and it is believed that he will qualify for the high-risk opt-out.
Under the opt-out rules in the agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association, any player can choose to opt out of the season and receive a $150,000 stipend. A player deemed at high risk because of medical factors receives a stipend of $350,000. It is not believed that Hightower, who was to have a base salary of $8 million this season if he had played, qualifies for the high-risk category. This was to be the final season of his contract but that deal now tolls, meaning it rolls over into next year and he remains under contract to the Patriots for one more season.
Other players confirmed or reported to be opting out of the season include Washington defensive lineman Caleb Brantley, Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, Chicago Bears defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Michael Pierce, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Devin Funchess, Denver Broncos defensive end Kyle Peko, Houston Texans defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes, Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, New Orleans Saints tight end Cole Wick, Seattle Seahawks guard Chance Warmack, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Maurice Canady, Baltimore Ravens tackle Andre Smith and Ravens wide receiver De’Anthony Thomas.
Kansas City Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who graduated from medical school in 2018 and worked this offseason as an orderly at a long-term care facility in Canada, became the first NFL player to opt out when he announced his decision Friday night.
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