Daniel Jones didn’t give it a second thought.
With dozens of players deciding it’s not worth the risk of trying to get through the season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Giants’ quarterback is all in on 2020.
“No, I do not plan to opt out,” Jones told reporters Thursday during a Zoom chat in his first public media availability since the start of training camp.
But Jones does acknowledge — and respect — the decision by those who have chosen not to play this year. It’s an important message to deliver, especially with the criticism being leveled at many who have decided that their personal health and well-being, as well as the safety of their families, supersedes the risks of playing amid a pandemic.
“It’s important to realize that everyone has different circumstances, whether it be family related or personally or whatever it may be,” Jones said. “Everyone has got to consider their own personal situation and I certainly respect that and expect people to do that and do what’s best for them and certainly don’t hold that against them.”
Teammate Nate Solder is one of those with whom Jones can empathize. The veteran left tackle, himself a cancer survivor, has a young son who was diagnosed with cancer when he was just three months old.
“Obviously, Nate made a decision to opt out, and he’s got an extremely tough circumstance,” Jones said. “He’s got to do what’s best for his family. All the respect in the world, all the support in the world to him.”
It’s a timely and heartfelt message from the Giants’ new leader on offense, and one that should resonate with anyone dealing with circumstances that put them at greater risk for contracting a disease that has killed more than 155,000 Americans in less than six months. But it’s a message that is not universally shared by those who believe that NFL players somehow owe it to the fans to participate in the upcoming season.
Bills All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White experienced some of that criticism when word surfaced he was considering an opt-out.
“Crazy that me choosing my family’s well-being over a game comes with so called fans attacking and questioning me and saying I’m selfish,” White tweeted Thursday morning before deciding to play this season. “No you guys are selfish for thinking that football is bigger than life. Oh by the way my girl’s grandfather passed from COVID. U understand now?”
Sixty-six players opted out before Thursday’s 4 p.m. deadline, a small fraction of the estimated 2,000 players that participate in a season, but a noteworthy number, nonetheless. Especially in a sport in which tapping out is considered a sign of weakness, opting out now carries a similar stigma to some. Eight Patriots players, including right tackle Marcus Cannon, linebacker Dont'a Hightower and safety Patrick Chung, are forgoing the season, as well as Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley and Eagles receiver Marquise Goodwin. Two other Giants players besides Solder — wide receiver Da’Mari Scott and cornerback Sam Beal — have also opted out.
“You’ve got to look at everyone individually and personally, and you have no way of knowing exactly what’s going on and why they made that decision,” Jones said. “That’s up to them. Like I said, I certainly respect it and support it for all the people who made that decision.”
Well said, sir.
Jones, meanwhile, goes about the business of beginning his first year as the Day 1 starter under highly unusual circumstances, and will navigate what was already a tricky situation even before the virus surfaced with a sense of calm and purpose. Not easy.
“Right now, I think my focus is on this camp and trying to make sure I am as prepared as possible mentally,” he said. “Make sure we take the right steps forward and improving every single day.”
Jones has added some muscle — he’s now playing at 229 pounds, up from 220 last year — and said he feels “like I’m as strong as I’ve been. I feel like I’m in good shape. I wanted to get stronger for what that does for every part of my game — standing in the pocket, running when I need to and obviously throwing the ball as efficiently as I can.”
Jones has done all he can to be as ready as he possibly can, albeit in the strange reality that is today’s NFL.
He’s hoping for the best, which is about all he — or anyone — can hope for these days.