New England running back James White and other team captains have said they will play this season, while also showing support for teammates who have chosen to opt out. Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

The Patriots opt-out total now up to eight – with tight end Matt LaCosse the latest to exit – several Patriots players talked Sunday about their decision to play football in 2020.

David Andrews, Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater, and James White, all captains, supported the decisions of those players who have left, while also sharing their reasons to continue, even during a pandemic.

Andrews, who missed last season with blood clots in his lungs, said during a video conference he was comfortable with his decision to stay with the team, after consulting doctors, as well as his wife.

“It’s something we all have to think about and make our own choices,” said Andrews. “My choice has been made. It’s just something I feel comfortable with, having the opportunity to go out and play … I’m just excited to go out there and get the chance to compete again … I’m super ecstatic to get this thing going … I love this game, and am fortunate to keep doing it right now.”

Slater, who is married with three children, relied on his faith and prayer, noting his wife, Shahrzad, is a doctor who undoubtedly has knowledge with respect to the virus, so it wasn’t the easiest decision to opt-in.

“With my wife having the background that she does … I think she knows a little bit more and it made the conversation (about football) a little bit tougher,” he said. “Obviously, my parents have their own concerns. I have a young family I’m trying to raise, protect and provide for and spiritually lead … we feel at a place of peace now. It’s just a matter of us moving forward.”


McCourty, meanwhile, also sounded like he didn’t plan on opting out, although it was up for interpretation. Asked if he was fully in for the season, McCourty didn’t necessarily provide a definitive answer. He said he’s been doing a lot of thinking, and one of the reasons he’s currently decided to play is to continue with his off-the-field concerns and using his platform to push social justice.

“I’m still out there having fun, and figuring things out,” he said, after slamming the league for trying to shorten the deadline for players opting out. “We’ll see how we go.”

White, who is married with an infant, and another on the way, is also all-in after careful consideration.

“It’s definitely not an easy decision having a little one at home and my wife’s pregnant, ” he said. “There was definitely a lot considerations. It was definitely not an easy choice … you don’t want to be selfish. We love and want to play the game, but we want to protect our families at home, our teammates, our coaches and everybody. It was definitely a difficult choice, but I feel like we’re trying to take the right steps and all the precautions at the stadium, and trusting one another to do the right things outside of the locker room.”

With the captains still on board, LaCosse joined Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Marcus Cannon, Brandon Bolden, Dan Vitale, Marqise Lee and Tajee Noran on the list of Patriots opting out, by far the most on any single team in the NFL.

White was asked point-blank if the team put any pressure on the players to play football. He said it was solely the player’s decision. There was no team involvement.


All four captains, McCourty said, respect the decisions made by others who have opted out.

“I’ve gotten to speak with those guys, and it’s a tough decision right now with everything going on, what you want to do with your family,” said McCourty. “But, I think for those guys, they made tough decisions … to forgo a contract this year, and not have the opportunity to be around all the guys … I have a lot of respect for all those guys. We’ve won a lot of football games together and gone through a lot of different things personally. Those guys will still be friends, and I’ll still talk to them all the time.”

Players also discussed changes made by the team to try and make the facility more safe.

“A lot of things are different. We’re just trying to do the best we can creating distance,” said Andrews. “We’re very fortunate to have great ownership in the Krafts, everything they’ve done, the space we have available, and utilizing that space … can’t say enough, starting with leadership on down, and all the operations guys, strength staff, equipment staff, medical staff, they’re the driving force to get this thing rolling as a player, and try to make it easy as you can to come in and go to work like we usually do.”

Added Slater: “We have a number of resources that I think will help guide us through this time … I have a lot of confidence in our medical staff, but at the same time, this is unpredictable, it’s novel, it’s new and emerging. We’ll see how this goes, we’ll have to take it one day at a time, we’ll have to have a lot of faith and trust in each other as we operate.”

It’s a common theme, and one Major League Baseball has struggled with, with a large outbreak with the Miami Marlins.

Some of staying COVID-free falls on the players to be responsible, and as disciplined as possible.

“You have to be as safe as you can. There’s risks we’re all taking here,” said Andrews. “There’s risk going to the grocery store, or filling up your car with gas. You just gotta be as safe as you can. Be as clean as you can. Just gotta try to stay on top of it. We’ve been fortunate thus far, hopefully, we can continue on this trend moving forward.”

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