Patriots fullback Danny Vitale is opting out of the 2020 NFL season because of concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic, his agent Leigh Steinberg told USA Today.
Steinberg did not share additional details about the decision, though Vitale and his wife, Caley, recently welcomed a newborn baby.
Vitale, who signed a one-year deal with the Patriots in March, was set to replace veteran James Develin, who retired this offseason as a result of complications following his season-ending neck injury. Prior to joining the Patriots, Vitale played two seasons with the Cleveland Browns and two with the Green Bay Packers. The 26-year-old Northwestern grad appeared in 15 games with the Packers last season, catching seven passes for 97 yards and three first downs.
With Vitale out, fullback Jakob Johnson as well as rookie tight end Dalton Keene should have more opportunities to earn playing time.
Patriots guard Najee Toran is also opting out, according to the Boston Globe‘s Jim McBride. Toran, 24, spent last season on New England’s practice squad.
The deadline for players to opt out of the season is Aug. 3. Players who voluntarily opt out will receive a $150,000 stipend, while players who opt out for medical reasons will receive $350,000.
Patriots rookies and quarterbacks were expected to report to Gillette Stadium for the start of training camp on Monday, with the remainder of the team scheduled to do so later this week.
On Sunday, the Patriots released nine players in order to reach the league-mandated, 80-person limit for camp. Now that Vitale and Toran have opted out, there are two open roster spots. According to McBride, the Patriots have already filled one by re-signing wide receiver Will Hastings.