Last season, the New England Patriots had eight players opt out due to concerns over COVID-19. The biggest name from the bunch was veteran linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
Hightower, a three-time Super Bowl champion, is expected to play for the Patriots this fall. However, he has not yet shown up to OTAs.
Rumors about Hightower’s future with the franchise have been swirling this week due to his absence. Some fans are even worried that he might decide to retire from the NFL.
On Thursday afternoon, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick commented on Hightower’s status with the team. At this time, it doesn’t sound like Belichick is worried about Hightower retiring.
“With all the players that are on the roster and not here, my expectations are that they intend to play,” Belichick told reporters. “But we know things change. That’s part of life and part of football.”
Asked about those not at OTAs, Belichick says, "With all the players that are on the roster and not here, my expectations are that they intend to play. But we know [things] change. That's part of life and part of football."
— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) May 27, 2021
Belichick also addressed the other absences the Patriots have had in OTAs thus far.
“We’ll see how it goes with some of the players who aren’t here, which is a number of them that aren’t. We’ll welcome them when they get here. It’s all voluntary. When they’re here, they’re here. And we’ll work with them.”
After failing to make the playoffs last fall, Belichick should enter the 2021 season with a major chip on his shoulder.