Eagles Rookies Consider Tough Choice to Opt-Out

Davion Taylor

Getty The Eagles selected LB Davion Taylor from Colorado in the third round at pick No. 103.

For the majority of NFL rookies — facing long odds and expedited learning curves — the debate over opting out versus playing in a pandemic was never a question. Football is what drives and defines them.

The league has given players the option to skip the 2020 season if they feel at risk due to COVID-19, with an estimated 30 guys (including the Eagles’ Marquise Goodwin) taking them up on the offer. Salaries range in scale from $150,000 to $350,000, depending on time of service and where they fall on the “high risk” scale.

The Eagles selected 10 players in April’s draft, plus signed another 12 undrafted free agent rookies, and none of them have decided to opt-out. Many of them never even considered it, not when it could jeopardize their NFL futures and put them at a disadvantage in learning the playbook. That, and these guys just love the game way too much.

“To be honest, me personally, I haven’t thought about opting out because I want to play football. That’s one thing I love,” said Eagles rookie linebacker Davion Taylor. “I feel like we’re going to have a great and safe season. I don’t want to think about not playing, that’s one thing I don’t want to put in my mind.”

Taylor, a third-round pick out of Colorado, added that he believed both the NFL and the Eagles put in the proper protocols to alleviate any fear about getting sick. He’s not worried, at all — although he did express full support for Goodwin who has cited protecting his wife and 5-month-old daughter for opting out. (Note: three Eagles players were placed on the COVID-19 list).

“In terms of the teammate who opted out, I understand his situation,” Taylor said. “To be honest, I respect it because his family should come first.”

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‘Best Ability is Availability’ in Professional Football

Opting out was never an option for Eagles rookie K’Von Wallace, either. The fourth-round pick out of Clemson trusts the processes in place to keep the players safe. He has been following the rules: limiting contact with people, staying isolated at the hotel, and frequently washing his hands and using sanitizer.

“I take this very seriously. I have a family back home that is counting on me to do my job and being sick would limit that,” Wallace said. “Knowing and understanding the protocols that the whole league is taking very seriously, as well as me and the other players. We’re keeping everything virtual and having as limited contact with one another as possible.”

Wallace also knows the golden rule in the NFL: “The best ability is availability.” And not being out there on the field for whatever reason breaks it.

“The one thing you want to be in the league is available, so I got to make sure that I’m available at all times,” Wallace said. “I’m going to do everything I can to limit those opportunities that could keep me away from being available.”

For Jalen Reagor, the decision became even easier after Goodwin opted out. The first-round pick out of Texas Christian has a clearer path to a starting spot with the veteran receiver out of the way. Reagor should have more repetitions in practice, although he knows that’s not a given after the coaches indicated they wanted to ease him into his role.

“That’s out of my hands, I don’t know,” Reagor said. “I just look at it like things happen … people get hurt, like Marquise, with him opting out … things happen. I’m just going to take advantage of every opportunity I get.”

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