WR Lee becomes seventh Patriots player to opt out

New England wide receiver Marqise Lee became the seventh Patriots player to opt out of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus. No team has had as many players choose not play this fall.

“This is a big sit-down process I had, with me and my significant other, as far as family goes. The risk factor in which we believe that’s going out there, it just wasn’t worth it in a sense. Just too many unknowns,” Lee told ESPN.com of his decision.

Lee signed with the Patriots on a one-year deal in April, but he told ESPN.com that protecting his family — including his first child, a daughter born in February — took precedence. Because he is opting out, his one-year deal will roll over to next season.

Lee added that he had faith in coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots’ readiness to deal with the pandemic, despite his decision.

“We knew New England, honestly, had a great system in place. But I told Coach, at the end of the day, I wouldn’t be doing him justice going out there because I wouldn’t be able to give him my all knowing my family was back at the house worrying about their situation.”

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung and right tackle Marcus Cannon, all starters, also opted out, along with special-teams player Brandon Bolden, fullback Danny Vitale and practice squad offensive lineman Najee Toran.

The window to opt out ends on Tuesday. Players considered high risk for COVID-19 can earn a $350,000 stipend and an accrued NFL season if they decide to opt out. Players without risk can receive $150,000, according to the agreement approved last week by the league and the NFL Players Association, although the voluntary opt-out stipend is solely an advance toward future salary. The stipend is not available to undrafted rookies.

The NFL Players Association announced Tuesday that 21 players had tested positive for COVID-19 since reporting for training camps began last week, bringing the total of positive tests this offseason to 107. The number is expected to climb this week, with most players reporting to teams on Tuesday and set to take multiple tests over the next few days before participating in any activities.

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