The New England Patriots have been a relatively dominant force in the NFL of late, reaching four Super Bowl games in the last six years.
But their ongoing success will be tested to the full in the 2020/21 campaign with the news that EIGHT of their roster will not play this season due to fears over the spread of coronavirus.
Marcus Cannon, Patrick Chung and the fantastically-named Dont’a Hightower are just three key players within the eight, and having already lost Tom Brady to Tampa Bay the Patriots’ odds of 12/1 to win the AFC look plenty short.
Nearly all of the franchises have at least one player missing, with only three teams – the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Atlanta Falcons and the Los Angeles Chargers – able to call upon a full-strength roster.
All in all, a selection of positions will be hit – most notably on offense, although happily for all involved none of the game’s quarterbacks are set to be missing.
One of the most notable absentees this term will be Albert Wilson, and his loss means that the Miami Dolphins will be without two of their key wide receivers. “I’ve decided to opt out this 2020 season,” Wilson wrote on his Twitter feed. “It was a very tough choice but since the day I started playing the game it’s always been Faith Family Football.
“Because of this crazy time, I choose to put my family in the best situation I see fit. I will stand by my teammates & brothers to support them 100% throughout this season and will be counting the days until I can join them again.”
All told, 66 players have opted not to play this season, with those missing out for medical reasons paid a $350,000 stipend and those voluntarily not playing will be handed an $150,000 advance on their future salary.
Four Billion Reasons for NFL to Play On
If the NFL season was curtailed for health and safety reasons, the financial damage caused would be mountainous.
Even as things stand, the brand’s commercial revenue could be down by as much as $4 billion with the revised programme, with the campaign set to get underway on September 10 when Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs entertain Houston Texans.
Full contact training commences on August 17, and the players will be tested daily throughout the two-week camp. Already, more than 80 players are on the NFL Covid-19 list, which means they have either tested positive or been in contact with somebody that has.
The NFL, and individual teams, have the power to fine players up to $50,000 for a series of offences, from failing to wear a mask and a lack of social distancing to frequenting ‘high risk’ public spaces and bars.
The players as a group remain, for the most part, disappointed that the NFL is unwilling to listen to the advice of their medical advisers, who are suggesting more needs to be done to protect the wellbeing of all involved.
The Super Bowl winning quarterback, Drew Brees, tweeted: “We need Football! We need sports! We need hope! The NFL’s unwillingness to follow the recommendations of their own medical experts will prevent that. If the NFL doesn’t do their part to keep players healthy there is no football in 2020. It’s that simple. Get it done @NFL.”