- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The New England Patriots will be without at least six players, including defensive starters Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung, in 2020 due to coronavirus-related opt-outs.

Chung was the latest to opt out, telling ESPN of his decision Tuesday morning.

According to other reports, running back Brandon Bolden, fullback Danny Vitale, tackle Marcus Cannon and center/guard Najee Toran are joining Chung and Hightower in opting out. That’s far and away the most players from a single NFL team to opt out of the season so far.

Hightower made his decision in part to protect his infant son.

“Me and my fiancée are just more concerned with the health of our family than football — especially the new addition to our family,” he told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Hightower, 30, and Chung, who turns 33 next month, were set to be starters for New England at linebacker and safety, respectively.

Players who are “voluntary” opt-outs are eligible for a $150,000 advance on their contracts, while “higher-risk” opt-outs can be given $350,000 for missing the season — which isn’t an advance on their salaries.

Washington defensive lineman Caleb Brantley was the first player given the “higher-risk” opt-out designation Monday. It is unknown what sort of underlying condition Brantley has that would make him more susceptible to the virus.

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