A person familiar with the situation says New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower has decided to opt out of the 2020 season. Hightower’s decision was made out of concern for the health of his fiancée and child, who was born earlier this month, the person said. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Patriots have not announced the decision. ESPN was the first to report the move.
Two other people told the AP that starting right tackle Marcus Cannon and fullback Danny Vitale have also chosen to sit out the season, citing health concerns. Cannon is a cancer survivor, having been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma during his final season at Texas Christian University in 2011. Vitale has a young family and doesn’t want to risk exposing them, according to the sources.
The NFL and the players association agreed last week to an opt-out clause for the upcoming season. Those who choose to voluntarily sit out will receive a $150,000 stipend and those with medical opt outs will receive $350,000 rather than their contractual salary. Hightower has been a staple of New England’s defense since being drafted in the first round in 2012, helping the Patriots win three Super Bowls. The two-time Pro Bowler signed a four-year, $35.5 million contract in 2017. He was scheduled to make an $8 million base salary this season.