PER­ILS AND WIS­DOM

Nagy doesn’t know if more play­ers will fol­low Gold­man, Lu­cas and opt out

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - PA­TRICK FIN­LEY pfin­ley@sun­times.com | @patrick­fin­ley

Thurs­day’s dead­line for NFL play­ers to opt out of the 2020 sea­son marks the in­ter­sec­tion of pub­lic health and per­sonal safety, of fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity and phys­i­cal risk. A sport whose com­bat­ants al­ready vol­un­teer for once-per-week dan­ger must weigh the wis­dom of fight­ing a new peril — the coro­n­avirus, which can be passed to their fam­ily and friends — 24 hours a day for at least the next five months.

Crassly, too, the 3 p.m. dead­line is im­por­tant for any team with cham­pi­onship as­pi­ra­tions. Macabre cir­cum­stance or not, coaches and gen­eral man­agers would rather start the sea­son with a full ros­ter.

The Bears al­ready are down two play­ers: stud nose tackle Ed­die Gold­man, who opted out last week, and backup safety Jor­dan Lu­cas, who made the same de­ci­sion Mon­day.

Will there be more?

“We have no idea,” coach Matt Nagy said Wed­nes­day. “I think right now the pulse of our team, we’re in a re­ally good place. We’re kind of in a rhythm right now.”

En­ter­ing Wed­nes­day, 26 of the NFL’s 32 teams have had at least one player opt out.

In to­tal, 60 play­ers have cho­sen not to play this sea­son.

Gold­man might be the sec­ond­most valu­able player on that list be­hind the Pa­tri­ots’ Dont’a Hightower, a three-time Su­per Bowl champ and two-time Pro Bowl line­backer.

Ac­cord­ing to an agree­ment be­tween the league and the NFL Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, play­ers ruled to be in the high-risk cat­e­gory will re­ceive a $350,000 stipend when they opt out. Those who aren’t will get a $150,000 ad­vance. In ei­ther case, the play­ers’ con­tracts will be paused and re­sume next year — pro­vided they opt out by Thurs­day.

Bears play­ers have been do­ing strength and con­di­tion­ing work and walk-throughs at Halas Hall, though they won’t hold a prac­tice in full pads un­til Aug. 17. Pub­licly and pri­vately, the Bears’ or­ga­ni­za­tion has touted the coro­n­avirus safety mea­sures it has taken in­side Halas Hall. The goal is to make play­ers com­fort­able that the or­ga­ni­za­tion will spend all sea­son try­ing to keep them as safe as pos­si­ble. Pre­sum­ably, that would sway their de­ci­sion on whether to opt out.

“You ask some of the guys how they’re feel­ing in re­gard to the setup that we have here, and con­trol­ling what we can con­trol is giv­ing them a lot of space and then also just talk­ing through this whole pro­ce­dure, ev­ery­thing about it,” Nagy said. “We spent a lot of time into where we’re at and how we go about it and the de­tails of ev­ery­thing, and then we let them make their de­ci­sion.

“But I think, for them, it’s just to make the best de­ci­sion. And then we fully sup­port any­body who does that.”

Nagy said the Bears are “100% all in” in their sup­port for Gold­man and Lu­cas.

“Two re­ally good peo­ple that had to make tough de­ci­sions,” Nagy said. “They weren’t easy de­ci­sions. And we had good con­ver­sa­tions with them.

“It’s not easy. This isn’t just some­thing that’s a click of a but­ton — ‘I’m opt­ing out.’ No, there’s a lot of thought that goes into this for these guys. So we sup­port them from both ways.”

They’ll do the same if any­one else sub­mits their name be­fore Thurs­day af­ter­noon.

“If they choose to opt out, we’re gonna sup­port you,” Nagy said. “If you choose to go for­ward, we’re gonna sup­port you — and we’re gonna be very strict in re­gard to wear­ing masks and do­ing ev­ery­thing that we can to lis­ten to what the ex­perts say.”

“I THINK, FOR THEM, IT’S JUST TO MAKE THE BEST DE­CI­SION. AND THEN WE FULLY SUP­PORT ANY­BODY WHO DOES THAT.” MATT NAGY, Bears coach, on play­ers de­cid­ing whether to opt out of the 2020 sea­son

AMR ALFIKY/AP

Bears stand­out nose tackle Ed­die Gold­man opted out of the 2020 sea­son last week. The NFL dead­line for opt­ing out is 3 p.m. Thurs­day.

Jor­dan Lu­cas

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