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Marqise Lee becomes 7th Patriots player to opt out of 2020 season

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Wide receiver Marqise Lee said Saturday that he has decided to opt out of the 2020 season, becoming the seventh New England Patriots player to do so. No NFL team has had more players opt out of the season.

Lee, 28, became a first-time father in February, and said protecting his newborn daughter Alia and family was at the core of his decision.

“This is a big sit-down process I had, with me and my significant other, as far as family goes. The risk factor in which we believe that’s going out there, it just wasn’t worth it in a sense. Just too many unknowns,” Lee told ESPN.com.

“We knew New England, honestly, had a great system in place. But I told Coach [Bill Belichick], at the end of the day, I wouldn’t be doing him justice going out there because I wouldn’t be able to give him my all knowing my family was back at the house worrying about their situation.”

In addition to Lee, the Patriots have had starting linebacker Dont’a Hightower, starting safety Patrick Chung, starting right tackle Marcus Cannon, core special-teams player Brandon Bolden, fullback Danny Vitale and practice squad offensive lineman Najee Toran opt out of the 2020 season.

The Patriots had signed Lee to a modest one-year contract in April. The 2014 second-round draft choice out of USC spent the first six years of his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars, having signed a four-year contract worth $34 million in March 2018. But he played in only six games after signing that big deal, having missed the 2018 season after suffering a torn ACL, MCL and PCL in his left knee during the preseason.

Lee told ESPN.com that he plans to play in 2021. His contract tolls, meaning he’ll still be with the Patriots next season. He was viewed to be on the roster bubble this year.

Speaking about his decision to opt out of the season, Lee elaborated on what it has meant to him to become a father.

“People who know my background and where I came from, and things like that, I didn’t really have my pops in my life. I never really had a real father figure besides coaches as I got older,” Lee said. “This is my opportunity to be there for my daughter. I was hoping she could be there watching this season, but clearly she wasn’t going to be able to do that. I felt like it was important to just spend this year with her, and get back to it next year. Football is going to be there at the end of the day.”

Lee added that members of his extended family were a consideration in his decision as well.

“There are a lot of other implications that deal with this issue too,” he said. “Some of my [extended] family members are sick and things like that. At the end of the day, we weren’t trying to close off family members for the year. We’re just trying to find the safest way for the family, and this is it.”

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Vikings LB Cameron Smith discovers heart condition after positive COVID-19 test

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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Vikings linebacker Cameron Smith said he will miss the 2020 NFL season due to a congenital heart condition he only discovered after testing positive for COVID-19.

Smith, a fifth-round pick in 2019, announced Saturday he will have to undergo open-heart surgery to fix a bicuspid aortic valve. It’s a procedure he didn’t realize he needed until he tested positive for the coronavirus and underwent further testing.

“Although this will unfortunately end my 2020 season, it is really a blessing that we found this as my heart is severely enlarged and wouldn’t have lasted much longer,” Smith wrote in an Instagram post.

The linebacker said that the surgery will allow him to continue to play football once healed and that he “didn’t think twice about going with that one.”

Smith was a four-year starter at USC, where he totaled 354 tackles for the Trojans and earned All-Pac-12 honors in three seasons. He appeared in just five games for the Vikings in his rookie year and notched eight tackles.

Minnesota added linebacker depth on Saturday by signing former Raiders linebacker Quentin Poling. The team waived running back Tony Brooks-James as the corresponding move.



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NFL training camp 2020 – Larry Fitzgerald still has it, while Browns and Lions get key weapons back

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As 2020 NFL training camps continue, Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald shows that age is nothing but a number while the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions each got key offensive weapons back in the fold.

Here’s what you need to know from camps across the league:

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Browns WR Jarvis Landry passes physical, rejoins active roster
Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry has been activated off the physically unable to perform list after passing his physical and has rejoined the active roster. Landry, who hasn’t missed a game over his six years in the NFL, underwent hip surgery on Feb. 4 after battling an injury there throughout last season. The Browns on Saturday also activated safety Karl Joseph (foot) and tight end Pharaoh Brown (foot) from the off physically unable to perform list, and claimed cornerback M.J. Stewart off waivers.

Lions’ T.J. Hockenson among 3 removed from reserve/COVID-19 list
The Lions activated tight end T.J. Hockenson off the COVID-19 reserve list Saturday, over a week after he first went on the list at the start of training camp. Hockenson, the team’s first round pick last season, had 32 catches for 367 yards and two touchdowns in his rookie season before suffering a right ankle injury on Thanksgiving against Chicago that ended his year.

Source: Seahawks’ Quinton Dunbar to be removed from commissioner’s exempt list
Seahawks cornerback Quinton Dunbar is being removed from the commissioner’s exempt list, a source told ESPN, confirming an NFL Network report. The move is expected to become official Sunday. Dunbar’s removal from the exempt list allows him to re-join the Seahawks at team headquarters, which he’s expected to do as early as Sunday. Dunbar could still face an NFL suspension.

Washington releases RB Derrius Guice shortly after arrest
The Washington Football Team released Guice on Friday night, less than two hours after he was arrested on domestic violence charges in Loudoun County, Virginia. Washington wasted little time in releasing Guice, saying in a statement that it had learned of a domestic violence-related incident Thursday. The team alerted the NFL and met Friday with Guice to let him know he was excused from all team activities.

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“Duce has always been someone that can control the room. He demands respect and guys do respect him.”

Eagles TE Zach Ertz, on Duce Staley.


What our NFL Nation reporters saw today

On Sunday morning, Cory Undlin will step in front of his defense for the first time at the Detroit Lions practice facility in Allen Park, Michigan. He’s seen them for months now, but until Sunday he hasn’t been able to actually be face-to-face with any of them. At least in real life. The Lions new defensive coordinator was hired in January and met with his players over Zoom all spring until now. “To say excited would be an understatement, obviously,” Undlin said. “The respect that I have for virtual meeting right now and the way that whole spring was, and I talked about this a lot in June, if you’re having a conversation with somebody and you’re able to look them in the eye, like we are right now, I don’t care if you’re in person or not, this classroom, this media situation we’re in right now, we’ve been doing this all spring and I’ve got a great feel for all those guys and I think they all have a great feel for me, whether we’re in the meeting room or virtual however. But there is obviously a different feel after you can do it for six months and now you’re physically in the same room. There is a difference. We know that. And I can’t wait.” — Michael Rothstein

The transition from Doug Pederson to Duce Staley has been “seamless” according to tight end Zach Ertz. Staley is manning the day-to-day operations while Pederson quarantines after testing positive for the coronavirus. “Duce has always been someone that can control the room,” said Ertz,. “He demands respect and guys do respect him.” Pederson continues to lead a lot of the team meetings virtually, “giving us direction at the end of the day,” Ertz said. — Tim McManus

Panthers coach Matt Rhule is optimistic there will be football this season at Bank of America Stadium even though the North Carolina governor this week extended Phase 2 of COVID-19 re-opening another five weeks to at least September 11. Rhule says he can’t imagine a safer environment than the one that has been created at BOA for coaches, players and staff members. So far the Panthers haven’t placed a player on the NFL’s Covid-19 list. Whether all this will lead to some fans attending games Rhule can’t say. He’s preparing for all scenarios. “Obviously, we want to play in front of fans,” Rhule said. “We also want to be safe.” — David Newton

The Rams have placed DT A’Shawn Robinson on the active/non-football injury list, the team announced Saturday.

Lindsey Thiry, ESPN3h ago

Following up on Jeremy Fowler’s report that Panthers LT Russell Okung considered the NFL’s COVID-19 opt out and hasn’t ruled out retirement. According to Okung’s agent, J.I. Halsell, retirement only is on the board if Okung is “not feeling comfortable in his work environment due to an outbreak of COVID. At this moment, we’re nowhere near that scenario, meaning consideration of retirement is nowhere near imminent.” Okung missed 10 games last season with the Chargers with a pulmonary embolism due to blood clots. Halsell said Okung fully plans to play for Carolina this season unless the current COVID-19 situation takes a turn for the worse. — David Newton

Giants veterans had their first day off. This after they completed their fifth day of the acclimation period Friday. The acclimation period is eight days total before they enter a four-day ramp-up period when they can actually do 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills (without pads). — Jordan Raanan



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Lions’ T.J. Hockenson among 3 removed from reserve/COVID-19 list

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The Detroit Lions activated tight end T.J. Hockenson off the COVID-19 reserve list Saturday, over a week after he first went on the list at the start of training camp.

Hockenson, the team’s first-round pick last season, had 32 catches for 367 yards and two touchdowns in his rookie season before suffering a right ankle injury on Thanksgiving against Chicago that ended his year.

The Lions are counting on Hockenson to play a pivotal role in his second year as the team’s top tight end, paired with Jesse James.

The Lions have slowly returned to health after having eight players land on the COVID-19 list in the first week — including quarterback Matthew Stafford, who ended up with a false positive that helped lead to alterations to the NFL’s testing protocol. Stafford was activated Tuesday.

In addition to Hockenson, cornerback Amani Oruwariye and punter Arryn Siposs were also activated from COVID reserve on Saturday. Oruwariye is in line to be Detroit’s top depth cornerback. Siposs, a former professional Australian Rules football player who then went to Auburn, is competing for the team’s punting job with Jack Fox.

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