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How many Saints will end up opting out of the 2020 NFL season?

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The deadline for players to opt out is Monday, August 3. After two tight ends have chosen to do so, will any other Saints join them?

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Like other professional sports leagues this year, the NFL included an opt-out option for players going into the 2020-21 season. There are two delineations under which players can opt-out.

Players deemed low-risk will receive a $150,000 advance, and will not earn an accrued season. Players deemed high-risk will receive a $350,000 stipend, and will earn an accrued season towards their next free agency period.

All players who opt-out will have the remaining provisions in their contracts pushed back one calendar year. If a player is on a one year contract, that contract will shift to 2021. If a player has a multi-year contract, all future years of that contract with shift back one year.

The NFL implemented the CDC’s list of high-risk and potentially high-risk populations with one glaring, and in my opinion unconscionable, omission. After including conditions like asthma, immunocompromised state, hypertension, types 1 or 2 diabetes, and sickle cell disease, the NFL left obesity off their list of high-risk related conditions.

Why? If the NFL actually imposed all of the CDC’s requirements for high-risk individuals, almost every player on teams’ defensive and offensive lines would qualify for the $350,000 stipend and contract toll.

The $350,000 stipend does not need to be paid back to the NFL, but the $150,000 advance does. Once again, the NFL is showing you how heartless and money obsessed it is. Around 56% of NFL players are at least level 1 obese, while more than 25% can be categorized as level 2 obese, or in other words, extremely obese.

By removing obesity from their list of high-risk factors, the NFL is giving a huge middle finger to over half the league’s players. Maybe that wouldn’t be such a big deal if obesity was less proven to lead to greater severity of Covid-19 symptoms. Unfortunately, the opposite is true; it’s one of the most proven high-risk factors of all.

In a living document, the CDC lists what conditions have the strongest and most consistent medical evidence that proves they can lead to more severe outcomes, including death, in people with Covid-19. Out of 24 high-risk conditions, only four have stronger or more consistent evidence of leading to severe outcomes than obesity.

Some players, healthy themselves and more low-risk than, say, a 320 pound defensive tackle, are choosing to opt-out for a variety of reasons. Two high profile players have chosen to do so more for the health of their families than for themselves.

Others are opting out because they themselves are at higher risk, whether the league will designate them as such or not. Defensive tackles, like I mentioned before, are positional players who are often asked to carry obscene amounts of extra weight on their bodies.

As Gregg Rosenthal pointed out in this tweet, the growing list of opt-outs is just beginning. There are still several days left for players to continue speaking with their doctors and their families about what decision is best for their personal situation.

CBS is updating a current list of team by team opt-outs if you are interested in checking out the status of your team’s roster. Some teams have zero opt-outs so far, but one team already has six, the New England Patriots.

So far, the New Orleans Saints have only received notice from two players who are choosing to opt-out, but both play the same position. Tight ends Cole Wick and Jason Vander Laan represent a third of the tight ends on the Saints roster, so anytime multiple players from the same position are unavailable, it’s going to put an additional strain on the rest of the roster.

As both were entering just their third seasons, Wick and Vander Laan are some of the younger players to opt-out this year. Albert Breer made the same case for more established veterans in the above tweet. Players who have made more money and achieved more career success may be more likely to opt-out regardless of their personal risk factor.

There are only three current Saints players left from the 2009 Championship team. Drew Brees and Thomas Morstead have both achieved financial security over their careers, but both may still hunger for a second Super Bowl ring.

The other player left from that 2009 roster might have more in common with the Patriot opt-outs than any other Saints player. He has two rings with two separate franchises and has made over $51 million during his career. Over a month ago, while serving as a guest analyst on CNN, Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins sounded more off the fence than on it.

“We kinda end up being on this trust system. The honor system, where we just have to kind of hope that people are social distancing and things like that. And that puts all of us at risk. Not only us as players and who’s in the building, but when you go home to your families.

“I have parents who I don’t want to get sick. Until we get to the point where we have protocols in place and until we get to a place as a country where we feel safe doing it, we have to understand that football is a nonessential business and so we don’t need to do it. So the risk, you know, has to be really eliminated before we, before I would feel comfortable with going back.”

Almost immediately after his interview on CNN, Jenkins posted the following video to his twitter account and tried to clarify his comments.

Until Monday August 3, none of us will know the full list of players choosing to opt out of the NFL’s 2020 season, but this situation is certainly worth watching as it develops. It will be interesting to see how many more players choose to do so and if any of them would have been wearing the Black and Gold this season.