Two days into preseason camp, Michigan State lost two more players for the 2020-21 season, each opting out of playing due to health concerns surrounding COVID-19.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Marcel Lewis and freshman offensive lineman Justin Stevens both announced on Twitter Saturday they intend to sit out the upcoming season, bringing Michigan State’s total to four players who have opted out after defensive end Jacub Panasiuk and right tackle Jordan Reid, both seniors, opted out earlier this week.
Lewis appeared in three games last season as a true freshman and noted issues his family has already encountered in dealing with the virus, including the death of a family member, as the main reason for not playing.
“This was a tough decision for me and my family but we feel like this is the best decision for me in terms of my health and well-being,” Lewis wrote. “Due to family experiences and the uncertainty with regarding to COVID-19 has influenced me to make this decision. I have lost a family member during this pandemic and another family member severely sick in the hospital. Also both were tested positive for COVID-19. I don’t feel safe with competing this year because of the many different outbreaks on teams and athletes developing heart issues and respiratory problems.”
Lewis went on to thank coach Mel Tucker and linebackers coach Ross Els and vowed to return for the 2021 season.
Stevens, the true freshman from Ontario, pointed out his own respiratory condition as a reason for opting out.
“Due to the ongoing pandemic and health risks caused by COVID-19, I’ve decided to opt out of the 2020 football season,” Steven wrote on Twitter. “This has been an extremely hard decision but due to the certain circumstances and with the main focus being my health having a respiratory condition, I will be using my redshirt year to make sure I do not use any of my existing eligibility.”
On Thursday when coach Mel Tucker was asked about his reaction to Panasiuk’s decision, he offered his support and said there were others on the team considering a similar move.
“That's their individual decision, and whatever they decide to do, we're gonna support them,” Tucker said. “One thing that we've been able to establish within a short period of time here is we've been able to establish a certain amount of trust. Our communication — player to coach and coach to player — has been very good and it's grown. So we're able to have an open and honest dialogue.”
The decisions from Lewis and Stevens come on the same day the Big Ten announced it was forcing its teams to delay a move to full-padded practices while the Mid-American Conference said it was canceling fall sports, including football.
The MAC is the first FBS conference to make such a move, though it could be followed by others. Big Ten presidents were meeting on Saturday with growing sentiment that a cancellation of the fall season was imminent.