When the NFL gave its players the option of opting out of the 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic last month, Rodney McLeod never really considered it.
“I had a conversation about it with my wife,” the Eagles safety said Thursday. “But looking at all of the protocols that have been put in place here, we felt confident in the fact that this is one of the safest environments you can be in, within these walls” of the NovaCare Complex.
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Players had until 4 p.m. Thursday to opt out of the season. Sixty-six took the league up on its offer. Just one Eagle – wide receiver Marquise Goodwin – chose to sit out.
Goodwin’s wife, Morgan, gave birth to a daughter, Marae, in February. Morgan previously had lost three babies in miscarriages, including twin boys. Goodwin, who made the decision to sit out the season late last month, said he didn’t want to risk the safety of his wife and infant daughter.
“Marquise had to do what was best for his family,’' McLeod said. “I totally understand and we fully support him for that decision.‘'
The Eagles are one of 12 teams that had no more than one player opt out. Three – Pittsburgh, Atlanta, and the Los Angeles Chargers -- had none. Teams besides the Eagles with just one opt-out: Tampa Bay, Arizona, Green Bay, Seattle, Houston, Tennessee, Minnesota, and the Los Angeles Rams.
The New England Patriots had a league-high eight players opt out, including four 2019 starters – linebacker Don’t’a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung, right tackle Marcus Cannon, and tight end Matt LaCosse.
The Cleveland Browns had four players opt out. Seven teams, including the Super Bowl-champion Kansas City Chiefs, had three players opt out.
Most of the Eagles players who have been available to reporters on Zoom calls the last two weeks said they never seriously considered opting out. They said they feel safe at the team’s training facility.
“The protocols are top of the line, for sure,‘” safety Jalen Mills said Thursday. “We had to pass a certain amount of [COVID] tests just to get into the building. Now, we’re taking the test every day before we enter the building. We’re getting our temperature scanned. We’re getting a whole clean box with Lysol sprays, our own hand sanitizer, our own tissues, our own everything.
“Also, we’re all wearing the beeper trackers. If something was to happen and someone was to come down with something, they could track who that person was closest to throughout the day, knowing that now they can give them an extra test to make sure that they didn’t come down with anything.
“That just gives you an idea of how closely they’re keeping track of everybody and wiping down everything. Definitely makes you feel safer when you’re in the building, for sure.”
The NFL Players Association said Thursday that 56 players have tested positive for the coronavirus since training camp opened last week.
It was revealed earlier this week that Eagles coach Doug Pederson had tested positive. He was the league’s second head coach to contract the virus. Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints revealed in March that he had tested positive.
Three Eagles players – offensive tackles Lane Johnson and Jordan Mailata and linebacker Nate Gerry -- are on the league’s reserve/COVID list. Johnson acknowledged that he had tested positive. It’s unclear whether Mailata and Gerry tested positive or were just exposed to someone else who had COVID.
There inevitably are going to be outbreaks throughout the season, particularly when teams begin practices in pads later this month, and especially when the season starts in September.