The first player to publicly opt out of the 2020 NFL season happens to be the only medical doctor on an NFL roster.
Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif will sit out the season, he announced Friday night on Twitter. Players could opt out of this coming season as part of a deal the players union negotiated and finalized with the league.
My decision regarding the 2020 NFL season pic.twitter.com/jrY3nZfNWO
— Laurent D. Tardif (@LaurentDTardif) July 25, 2020
“This is one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make in my life but I must follow my convictions and do what I believe is right for me personally,” he wrote.
Duvernay-Tardif, 29, has been a starter at right guard for the Super Bowl champions for the past five seasons. He is the first active NFL player to graduate from medical school.
Since he’s not in a residency program due to the time required to play football and he doesn’t have a license to practice yet, in the aftermath of COVID-19 he has been working as an orderly, a hospital assistant responsible for nonmedical care of patients and the maintenance of order and cleanliness.
Duvernay-Tardif has also served on the NFLPA’s task force on the pandemic, along with experts who study epidemiology and public health.
As such, Duvernay-Tardif said the decision has nothing to do with the protocols the league has put into place to protect players. He added that the Chiefs’ medical staff has put together “a strong plan to minimize the health risks associated with COVID-19,” although some risks remain.
“Being at the frontline during this offseason has given me a different perspective on this pandemic and the stress it puts on individuals and our health care system,” he wrote. “I cannot allow myself to potentially transmit the virus in our communities simply to play the sport that I love. If I am to take risks, I will do it caring for patients.”
Duvernay-Tardif thanked the Chiefs for their support and understanding.
Duvernay-Tardif renegotiated his contract this offseason and was set to have a salary-cap number of $5.5 million. Players who are designated as “high-risk” opt outs will receive a $350,000 stipend, while others who opt out will receive a $150,000 salary advance.
Duvernay-Tardif’s decision means his salary will toll until 2021. So the Chiefs will gain cap room this year, but they’ll add the same amount to next year’s cap.
Chiefs add G Kelechi Osemele
On Saturday, the Chiefs added guard Kelechi Osemele on a one-year deal to shore up the offensive line after Duvernay-Tardif opted out of the 2020 season. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports the deal is for a maximum of $2 million.
The eight-year veteran had a tumultuous 2019 with the New York Jets battling myriad injuries. He started the first three games of the season, then was released after opting for shoulder surgery in October that was not authorized by the team. The Jets did not agree with the timing of the season-ending surgery and implored Osemele to play through the injury. Instead, the veteran left guard got three opinions and opted to have surgery.
He made two Pro Bowls in 2016-17 and was an All-Pro in 2016 with the then-Oakland Raiders. The Baltimore Ravens selected Osemele in the second round of the 2012 draft.
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