Imputations and conspiracy theories appear even less acceptable in pandemic times than they already are.
Emotions and feelings are extremely sensitive – and experiences, decisions and last but not least personal attitudes towards dealing with Corona can hardly be questioned.
The fact that more and more players in the NFL are foregoing the upcoming season for security reasons is just the way it is – and also accepted by the New England Patriots, without any ulterior motives.
Especially if player health could be compromised by a virus that has killed nearly 150,000 people in the United States.
Some people may have been all the more reminded of the risks at the start of the week due to the impending collapse in the MLB, where almost 20 people from the Miami Marlins have now been infected with COVID-19.
Hightower doesn’t want to play either
And yet: If a super team like the Patriots now has six professionals breaking away due to seasonal cancellations by using the “opt-out option” introduced in the course of the corona crisis, this inevitably raises doubts about the respective motives themselves.
After all, the Patriots under head coach Bill Belichick are anything but a clean slate. The scandals are well documented. Belichick explores the limits of what is allowed – and sometimes beyond – like no other.
With the three-time Super Bowl champion and pro-bowler Dont’a Hightower, who recently became a father for the first time and himself the son of a mother suffering from diabetes, the most prominent professional to date had given up on Tuesday.
The star linebacker sounded credible and convincing (“My fiancee and I are more concerned about the health of our family than about football”). Like the decision made by Starting Right Tackle Marcus Cannon, who was a non-Hodgkin lymphoma in college football and was therefore a potential high-risk patient, and Danny Vitale (also a new father) seemed understandable.
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Patriots: giving away for college star?
Nevertheless, with a view to the trio of offensive lineman Najee Toran, Safety Patrick Chung and running back Brandon Bolden, not only isolated NFL fans suspect calculation behind it.
Even more: It is assumed that the Pats are capitalizing on the corona situation and are already concentrating on the Draft 2021.
The mind games revolve around the fact that the franchise would consciously put up with a weak year after various top-class exits such as Tom Brady and then snap up in the draft college star Trevor Lawrence. That 20-year-old quarterback of the Clemson Tigers who bridged 3,665 yards and threw 36 touchdowns in 2019 with a pass rate of 65.8 percent – and who is predicted to have a great NFL career.
Newton in focus after break
But would it be a realistic move? The timing could be right. Since the Patriots would have had difficulties with the salary ceiling anyway, they let some expensive stars go, and the Salary Cap will drop in 2021 due to the corona pandemic. Thus, a year of construction with cost reduction and then good draft picks would actually be a sensible strategy, in order to then properly attack again in 2021 or 2022 at the latest.
The fact, at least, is that the Patriots are still in a great upheaval. Not only because of Brady’s departure to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, key players Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Danny Shelton and receiver Philip Dorsett also went.
Duron Harmon was traded, cult kicker Stephen Gostkowski was fired, and James Develin and offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia also announced their resignation.
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What remains is a franchise that has no real chances for the Super Bowl – despite Cam Newton, who signed a strongly performance-related one-year contract with the six-time champion.
Nevertheless: It seems hard to imagine that the Patriots, who were once deprived of their dominance, are now only looking for a season in the no man’s land with a view to the first pick. Certain ambitions can be ascribed to the experienced like Julian Edelman and James White. Newton also wants to show that he is fit and recommend himself for a large contract – wherever.
Does Belichick really switch to the 1st pick?
Above all, there is Belichick. The mastermind is in its 21st season as head coach of the Pats – and a total of 46th NFL season.
Is someone who loathes losing so confident, willing to give away voluntarily – possibly even suggesting his players to do without the season, all under the official guise of “corona concerns”?
Some conspiracy theorists on the net are unhappy, Belichick may also protect his own legacy at the same time, thus constructing an excuse for a lackluster season in the first year without Brady.
Even if such allegations and conspiracy theories are out of the question in pandemic times – especially in times of crisis they are at hand faster than usual.