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Patriots’ Devin McCourty blasts NFL over opt-out deadline scheme

Devin McCourty took off the New England Patriots-issued muzzle to rip into the NFL.

The league reportedly is trying to move up the verbally agreed-upon deadline for players to opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 health concerns. It was supposed to be a week after the updated agreement between the NFL and the union is signed (still has not happened) but ESPN reported there is an effort to move up that deadline to as soon as Wednesday because opt-outs already are underway.

“I think it is an absolute joke that the NFL is changing the opt-out period, mainly because they don’t want to continue to see guys opt out,” McCourty said Sunday in a video conference with Patriots reporters. “I’m sure they’re shocked about how many guys have opted out. I think it’s terrible. I think it’s B.S. that the league has changed that date.”

The Patriots have been hit much more than any other team, with eight players opting out. Devin and his twin brother Jason – who both star in the Patriots secondary, after playing together at Rutgers, and have young children – have not opted out yet, but Jason previously admitted he was “nervous” about factors out of his control coming into the locker room.

“It’s the same thing when we signed the CBA,” Devin said. “Some of those things that we [players] think are good sometimes backfire. We have rookies that are locked in long-term contracts, and then [franchise] tagged and [franchise] tagged. You guys don’t think we would love to change that about the CBA? But we can’t. That’s the point of signing an agreement.”

Devin McCourty Patriots NFL opt outs 2020
Devin McCourtyGetty Images

It’s unusual to see a member of the Patriots diving into controversy, but it’s another in a line of many indications of how strongly respected players feel about their safety during a pandemic. Devin is a 10-year veteran, two-time All-Pro and longtime captain with three Super Bowl rings.

“Monday will be our first day in the building, so to try to act like guys are trying to make a decision about something other than virtual meetings is a joke,” he said.

“When players understand how much power we have, we’ve seen things change for us; primarily even with this deal, with the COVID-19 and trying to get everything back, we saw some of that strength. Hopefully, we’ll see how everything turns out come Wednesday, if it ends up being the deadline. I support guys no matter what they decide, but I’m still out here having fun and figuring things out. So, we’ll see how we go.”

Forty-one players have opted out so far. In that case, contracts freeze and roll over to the future, with players eligible for a cash-advance stipend of $150,000 or $350,000 depending upon if the opt-out is deemed voluntary or high risk. Devin said he has spoken with all eight Patriots who opted out.

Pro Football Talk reported some teams believe players are not using the clause in good faith: Opting out and taking the stipend rather than face getting cut during the preseason, or using the opt-out instead of a holdout as leverage in contract negotiations.

“It’s a tough decision right now, with everything going on, what you want to do as far as your family,” Devin said. “They made a hard decision to forego [their] contract this year, not to have the opportunity to be around all the guys — and how much fun we have — so I have a lot of respect for all those guys. We won a lot of football games together and we’ve gone through a lot of different things personally. Those guys will still be friends, and I’ll still talk to them all the time.”

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