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Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung among six Patriots players to opt out of season

New England Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower started 15 games for the team in each of the last two seasons, but will miss the entire 2020 campaign after he opted out of the season. File Photo by Matthew Healey/UPI
New England Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower started 15 games for the team in each of the last two seasons, but will miss the entire 2020 campaign after he opted out of the season. File Photo by Matthew Healey/UPI | License Photo

July 28 (UPI) -- Pro Bowl linebacker Dont'a Hightower and starting safety Patrick Chung on Tuesday were among six New England Patriots players to opt out of the 2020 NFL season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Hightower, 30, became a first-time father earlier this month. His mother also has diabetes.

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"Me and my fiancee are just more concerned with the health of our family than football -- especially the new addition to our family," Hightower told NFL Network.

Similar to Hightower, Chung spoke earlier this week about expecting his second child, according to ESPN and NFL Media. He previously agreed to a two-year extension with the Patriots in May that included a $2 million signing bonus and a base salary of $1.1 million.

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Hightower was scheduled to earn a base salary of $8 million in the final year of his contract. His pact will now roll over to the 2021 season. NFL players who choose to voluntarily opt out will receive a $150,000 salary advance and their contract will roll to the next season they play.

Chung, 32, was entering his 12th NFL season, 11 of which he has spent in New England. In 13 regular-season games last year, he recorded 51 total tackles and three passes defensed.

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Hightower, who has won three Super Bowls with the Patriots, had 71 total tackles, 13 quarterback hits, eight tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, four passes defensed, a fumble recovery and a touchdown in 15 starts last season. He finished second on the team in tackles to Landon Collins, who also had 81 in 15 starts in 2019.

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Patriots running back Brandon Bolden, right tackle Marcus Cannon, fullback Danny Vitale and guard Najee Toran also have opted out of the 2020 season.

The Patriots' linebacker room will look a lot different in 2020. Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts left in free agency, in addition to Hightower opting out.

Baltimore Ravens return specialist De'Anthony Thomas, Seattle Seahawks guard Chance Warmack and Dallas Cowboys cornerback Maurice Canady are among other NFL players to opt out of the 2020 season.

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The Patriots are scheduled to face the Miami Dolphins in Week 1 at 1 p.m. EDT Sept. 13 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

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