A total of 66 players have opted out of the 2020 NFL season due to the coronavirus pandemic, nearly half of them linemen.

Twenty offensive linemen and 11 on defense opted out before Thursday’s deadline. Players with a medical opt out will receive a $350,000 stipend, while those voluntarily opting out receive $150,000 as an advance against future salaries.

No team has come close to New England in losing players for the upcoming season, which begins Sept. 10 with Houston at Super Bowl champion Kansas City.

The Patriots, already minus several stars who left in free agency – including, of course, Tom Brady to Tampa Bay – saw eight opt outs: running back Brandon Bolden, offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, safety Patrick Chung, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, tight end Matt LaCosse, wide receiver Marqise Lee, offensive lineman Najee Toran and fullback Dan Vitale. Hightower, Cannon and Chung were key contributors in recent seasons.

Cleveland was next with five players skipping the season: defensive tackle Andrew Billings, tackle Drake Dorbeck and guards Drew Forbes, Colby Gossett, and Malcolm Pridgeon.

Only three teams had no one opting out: the Steelers, Falcons and Chargers.

“Those are not easy decisions to make as a player, especially when you love the game,” said Broncos safety Justin Simmons, who will play this season. “But family will always come first. And I’ve had a lot of difficult conversations with my wife and, yeah, it’s not ever going to be easy. Just like for the rest of America, it’s not easy on anyone right now.”

Should a player decide to walk away after Thursday’s deadline because of a changed medical circumstance, he would get a stipend – unless he already exceeded the value of the stipend in the time he was active. Otherwise, there will be no financial compensation for voluntary future opt outs.

There also are salary cap relief machinations attached to opt outs. Contract bonus payments due to be applied to the cap in 2020 will be delayed a year even though the bonus has been paid.

BILLS: The Buffalo Bills signed offensive guard Brian Winters, five days after the seventh-year player was released by the New York Jets.

Winters is listed at 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds and was a starter from his rookie season after being selected by New York in the third round of the 2013 draft out of Kent State.

THE NFL Players Association announced 56 players have tested positive for the novel coronavirus since the opening of teams’ training camps, in the first set of results released publicly since the NFL and its players’ union put their testing program into effect.

The NFLPA said the results were through Wednesday. The figure represents about 2% of the approximately 2,600 players on training camp rosters for the 32 NFL teams.

Neither the NFL nor the NFLPA immediately responded to requests for comment on the testing results.

The NFL had said it expected to deal with positive testing results, especially in the initial round of testing after players arrived at camps from all over the country and had not been subject to previous protocols.

“We fully well expect that we will have positive cases that arise because we think that this disease will remain endemic in society,” Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, said during the offseason. “And so it shouldn’t be a surprise if new positive cases arise. Our challenge is to identify them as quickly as possible and to prevent spread to any other participants.”

Players are being tested daily for at least the first two weeks of training camps under the agreement reached between the league and union. The testing frequency would be reduced to every other day thereafter if the rate of positive tests among players, coaches and other team staff members (individuals in Tiers 1 and 2, under the sport’s guidelines) is below 5 percent.

Teams are conducting training camps in their home cities at their training facilities, with strict protocols in place. Teams were given a treatment program by the league to follow if a player, coach or staffer tests positive or is found through contact-tracing to have been in contact with an individual who tested positive. All players, coaches and staffers are wearing tracking devices within team facilities to assist with distancing measures and contact-tracing.

Quarterbacks Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions and Gardner Minshew of the Jacksonville Jaguars were among the players placed on their teams’ COVID-19 reserve lists during the early days of training camps. Those lists are all-encompassing for any player who either tests positive or is found through contact-tracing to have been exposed to the virus. Both quarterbacks were later activated. Minshew told reporters he had not contracted the virus, and the Lions said that Stafford had been on the list because of a false-positive testing result.

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