INDIANAPOLIS – As part of the NFL’s coronavirus health and safety protocols, players can opt out of the 2020 season.
As of Monday, over 35 players league-wide have exercised that option.
No Colts have opted out yet, but veteran offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo says he’s taken the pandemic seriously from the start and considered not playing.
“You want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” Castonzo told reporters in a Zoom call on Monday. “After seeing all the precautions that are in place and weighing things out, it made sense to go forward with the season and see what happens. We’ve got a good team and it’s an exciting season, so that’s something I want to be a part of.”
On the other side, All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard said sitting out the year wasn’t something he considered.
“I couldn’t wait to show up for work,” said Leonard. “I’m a man with a lot of energy. I hate to sit still. I am going to take it day-by-day, one play at a time, one game at a time, one day at a time and let the chips fall where they fall.”
Castonzo believes all of the testing has made the team’s complex a safe zone and what players do outside of the facility will be what limits the potential for an outbreak.
“People have to do what we’re supposed to do,” Castonzo explained. “Do what the CDC is telling us to do and limit risk outside of the building, so this building can remain that safe zone that it is and we can move forward with the season.”
The Patriots have the most players opting out so far with eight.
The Chiefs’ Laurent Duvernay-Tardiff, who has a medical degree and works in a clinic in his native Canada, was the first player to decide not to play this season.
“That’s his personal decision he made to kind of put the greater good before himself,” Castonzo said. “That’s an honorable thing that he is doing. As a doctor and taking care of people, I think that is what their job is and what he signed up for. It’s really cool to see him do that.”
Four players within the Colts’ division will skip the season: Jaguars’ defensive lineman Lerentee McCray and Al Woods, Texans’ defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes and Titans’ offensive tackle Anthony McKinney.
Players who sit out will receive $175,000 while players considered high risk to contract the virus will get $350,000.
The deadline for opting out was supposed to be seven days after changes to the CBA are ratified, but it’s now expected to be Thursday or Friday according to ESPN’s Dan Graziano.
“I just know what I love to do and what I want to do,” said Leonard. “Just have to continue to social distance, wash your hands, wear a mask, everything that the world is asking. I think if we continue to do that, I think that hopefully we don’t have anyone opt out, but I can’t say we will. I can’t say we won’t.”