July 28, 2020 / 10:52 PM / 8 days ago

UPDATE 1-NFL-More players opt out of season as training camps open-reports

(Updates with Hightower comments, Patriots reaction)

July 28 (Reuters) - New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower, safety Patrick Chung and Chicago Bears defensive tackle Eddie Goldman have decided to skip the upcoming NFL season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. media reported on Tuesday.

Six players on the six-time Super Bowl-winning Patriots have now decided to opt out of the season, ESPN reported here as the NFL opened training camps for all players on Tuesday.

The reports did not specify why Hightower and Chung had decided to skip the season, though Goldman cited concerns over COVID-19 in his decision, according to the NFL Network.

Hightower, whose fiancee gave birth earlier this month, posted a message to “Pats Nation” on his Twitter account, thanking the fans for their support.

“This wasn’t an easy decision, or one I made lightly, but I do feel that it’s the best decision for my family at this time,” said Hightower.

A Chicago Bears spokesman said the team did not have any official statement to share. A spokesman for the Patriots said they were unable to confirm any players had opted out, citing the “formal process” that all players must undergo with the league in order to do so.

In an open letter to fans, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said on Monday that COVID-19 remains a “major challenge” and that players can expect daily testing “for a while” as the league adopts enhanced safety precautions.

The Minnesota Vikings’ infection control officer tested positive for COVID-19, the team said Monday, while the Miami Dolphins have put three players on their “reserve/COVID-19” list.

New COVID-19 cases are spiking in states across the U.S., including Florida, where three NFL franchises play including the Dolphins, as well as Texas, Arizona and California.

In an ominous sign for leagues hoping to play outside of a so-called “bubble”, Major League Baseball scrambled to control a burgeoning crisis as 17 Miami Marlins players reportedly also tested positive, casting doubt on the MLB season. (Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Toby Davis and Ken Ferris)

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