Coach Bill Belichick says he fully supports the six Patriots who have opted out of the 2020 NFL season.
“I respect all of them,” Belichick said Friday afternoon. “I respect all the players on our team. We all have to make decisions.”
Running back Brandon Bolden, offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, safety Patrick Chung, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, guard Najee Toran, and fullback Dan Vitale have all elected not to play this season amid the coronavirus pandemic. Belichick said he has spoken to each of the players about their individual situations.
“He understands it’s a serious pandemic going on,” Chung said earlier this week in an interview with CBS This Morning. “He totally got it. You guys think Bill’s this drill sergeant, but he’s actually a very caring person. He totally understood. That was it. It was a short phone call.”
Belichick did not indicate whether the team is expecting more players to opt out. The deadline to do so is Aug. 3.
“My crystal ball is kind of cloudy right now, so I have no idea what will happen along those lines,” he said.
Belichick also would not say whether any Patriots have tested positive for the coronavirus since testing began on Monday. He noted there are no plans to publicly reveal those results, even once the season begins.
“Legally, by state and federal law, we’re not allowed to talk about that,” he said. “I’m simply not permitted to do that.”
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the league made significant changes to its offseason this year, eliminating OTAs, minicamps, and preseason games. Until this week, team facilities have largely remained closed to non-rehabbing players.
Rookies and quarterbacks reported to Gillette Stadium on Monday, with veterans arriving later in the week.
According to Belichick, the Patriots will begin Phase 1 of their offseason program next week. Phase 1 will consist of activities that generally take place in March and April, such as rookie minicamp and meetings with the newly-signed free agents.
Belichick did not have much to say about the addition of quarterback Cam Newton, whom the Patriots signed to a one-year deal this offseason. Newton will be competing against 2019 draft pick Jarrett Stidham for the starting gig, though Belichick doesn’t view the position battle any differently than others on the roster.
“That spot’s the same as all the other spots on the team,” he said.