You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Patriots’ Jerod Mayo ‘shocked’ by Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung opting out

MassLive.com logo MassLive.com 8/7/2020 By Chris Mason, masslive.com
Jerod Mayo standing next to a fence: New England Patriots LB Coach Jerod Mayo © Nick O'Malley | nomalley@masslive.com/masslive.com/TNS New England Patriots LB Coach Jerod Mayo

The Patriots lost a league-high eight players to coronavirus opt outs, including two pillars of their defense in Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung.

If that came as a surprise to you, you’re not alone. Inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo was taken aback when he heard the news, too.

“Initially, I was shocked, disappointed,” Mayo said on a video conference call Friday. “I can’t — a bunch of emotions went through my head. And then I stopped and obviously looked at each situation. These are personal decisions.

“Obviously, Hightower kind of took step back and just with family and his personal situation and so did Chung. I certainly respect it. I know coach (Bill Belichick) already talked about it. But from a football standpoint, we treat it like an injury. We’ve always — I know it’s cliche — but we’ve always had that next man up mentality. And that’s how we’re approaching it going forward.

“With that said, even those guys have opted out, those guys will still continue to mentor some of the younger guys, some guys that haven’t played as much ball. I can certainly appreciate it. Hightower is one of the smartest players I’ve ever been around, and so is Chung. So those guys aren’t here with us this year, but they’re still around.”

Amid the pandemic, parenting is coming first to both Patriots veterans: Chung’s girlfriend is expecting a daughter soon, while Hightower’s fiancee gave birth to their first child in July.

Chung elaborated on his decision to opt out on CBS This Morning.

“Of course it’s a tough decision,” Chung said. “You want to play football. I’m in the latter end of my career, so I wanted to play football. But when it comes down to it, I feel that money is not that important. I have a girlfriend that’s pregnant, a baby girl coming soon, my son has a little asthma, my dad is 75 years old. I just felt like this was the best decision for my family to keep everyone safe. I don’t think it’s fair to them. So I decided to do that. It’s not over. It’s just postponed a little bit.”

The safety was reportedly mulling retirement this offseason, but wound up signing a two-year extension through 2023 instead. Chung said there were no issues at all with Belichick when he let the coach know he was opting out.

“That (conversation) is private, but he understood,” Chung said. “He understands it’s a serious pandemic going on. He totally got it. You guys think Bill is this drill sergeant, but he’s actually a very caring person. So he totally understood, and that was it. It was a short phone call.”

Related content:

Jarrett Stidham ‘definitely ready’ to start for New England Patriots if he wins competition with Cam Newton

Can Cam Newton take Patriots’ hard coaching? ‘He’s a very coachable guy; this guy wants to work,’ Josh McDaniels says

Brian Hoyer was going to be a New Englander whether the Patriots signed him or not

———

©2020 MassLive.com, Springfield, Mass.

Visit MassLive.com, Springfield, Mass. at www.masslive.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From MassLive.com

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon