Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has opted out of the 2020 season, he wrote on social media, becoming the first NFL player to publicly say he won’t suit up this year.
Duvernay-Tardif, 29, is a medical school graduate from McGill University in Canada, and he had been assisting as an orderly in a long-term care facility in the Montreal area during the coronavirus pandemic.
In his social media post, he called the decision one of the most difficult of his life.
“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 healthcare 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.”
Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill applauded his teammate’s decision on Twitter. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes said Saturday he was surprised but respects what Duvernay-Tardif is trying to do.
“He’s the guy who’s been on the front lines, working with the people that are suffering from COVID day to day and putting in all that time and work,” Mahomes said. “He understands it and his decision was he wants to stay there and keep helping in that capacity.
“I know it was difficult for him, but you respect the decision for him to put his thoughts aside and to do what he thinks is best to help his community and the world as he sees it.”
According to an agreement approved by both the league and the union on Friday, players considered high risk for COVID-19 can earn $350,000 and an accrued NFL season if they choose to opt out of the 2020 season. Players without risk can earn $150,000 for opting out. Duvernay-Tardif was scheduled to make $2.75 million this season.
Players have seven days from the time the agreement is officially signed, likely Monday, to make a decision about whether to opt out for the season.
Coach Andy Reid, whose mother worked as a doctor, said he was proud of his lineman’s decision.
“I understand the dedication it takes to be a doctor,” Reid said Saturday. “It’s tremendous dedication to his profession and what his future is going to be. We understand that when football is over, this is going to be one of the greatest doctors ever.”
Duvernay-Tardif has been the Chiefs’ starting right guard for the past five seasons, and he played every offensive snap during their Super Bowl LIV win over the San Francisco 49ers in February.