The New England Patriots had their first two players choose to take advantage of their right to opt-out of the 2020 NFL season due to COVID-19 concerns.
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Patriots Fullback Dan Vitale Opts Out
According to the amendments made to the NFL and NFLPA’s agreement, players had the right to opt-out of the 2020 season if they had concerns about safety for themselves or loved ones. On Monday, the recently signed Dan Vitale, whom the Patriots hoped would fill the void at fullback left by the retired James Develin, chose to opt-out.
Vitale’s roster spot will be saved for the 2021 season, and his salary will be transported. Based on his most recent Instagram image, no one can say Vitale wasn’t in shape to play.
With Vitale out of play for the Patriots, the team now has Jakob Johnson and rookie TE/FB Dalton Keene to fill the role that was lacking in 2019 when Develin went down with what turned out to be a career-ending neck injury.
Vitale is smaller fullback than Develin and less on the pure power side, but his speed and receiving ability was set to provide the Patriots with some options at the position they hadn’t had in the past. Keene may have some of those same qualities, but he obviously doesn’t have the experience. Because of this, Johnson has to be the new frontrunner to start in the position with Vitale’s absence.
Another Patriots Player Has Also Opted Out
In addition to Vitale, reserve guard Najee Toran also elected to opt-out of the 2020 season.
Toran was a depth option for the Patriots at best, but after the Patriots have already cut down to 80 players, these opt-outs are opening spots for the team to sign free agents. In fact, the Patriots have already re-signed the recently released Will Hastings.
The rookie WR was originally signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent, but he was a part of the initial cutdown from 90 to 80. Per Jim McBride, Hastings is headed back to the team where he could offer depth at receiver, play special teams and he even has some skills as a kicker.
Perhaps this yo-yo effect will become a part of the latest undrafted-free-agent-to-star story in the NFL. For now, we wish Vitale, Toran, and everyone else under the NFL’s umbrella the best heading into a nervous and crazy 2020 season.
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