Wide receiver Marqise Lee said Saturday that he has decided to opt out of the 2020 season, becoming the seventh New England Patriots player to do so. No NFL team has had more players opt out of the season.
Lee, 28, became a first-time father in February, and said protecting his newborn daughter, Alia, and family was at the core of his decision.
"This is a big sit-down process I had, with me and my significant other, as far as family goes. The risk factor in which we believe that's going out there, it just wasn't worth it in a sense. Just too many unknowns," Lee told ESPN.com.
"We knew New England, honestly, had a great system in place. But I told Coach [Bill Belichick], at the end of the day, I wouldn't be doing him justice going out there because I wouldn't be able to give him my all knowing my family was back at the house worrying about their situation."
In addition to Lee, the Patriots have had starting linebacker Dont'a Hightower, starting safety Patrick Chung, starting right tackle Marcus Cannon, core special-teams player Brandon Bolden, fullback Danny Vitale and practice squad offensive lineman Najee Toran opt out of the 2020 season.
The Patriots had signed Lee to a modest one-year contract in April. The 2014 second-round draft choice out of USC spent the first six years of his career with the Jacksonville Jaguars, having signed a four-year contract worth $34 million in March 2018. But he played in only six games after signing that big deal, having missed the 2018 season after suffering a torn ACL, MCL and PCL in his left knee during the preseason.
Lee told ESPN that he plans to play in 2021. His contract tolls, meaning he'll still be with the Patriots next season. He was viewed to be on the roster bubble this year.
Speaking about his decision to opt out of the season, Lee elaborated on what it has meant to him to become a father.
"People who know my background and where I came from, and things like that, I didn't really have my pops in my life. I never really had a real father figure besides coaches as I got older," Lee said. "This is my opportunity to be there for my daughter. I was hoping she could be there watching this season, but clearly she wasn't going to be able to do that. I felt like it was important to just spend this year with her, and get back to it next year. Football is going to be there at the end of the day."
Lee added that members of his extended family were a consideration in his decision as well.
"There are a lot of other implications that deal with this issue too," he said. "Some of my [extended] family members are sick and things like that. At the end of the day, we weren't trying to close off family members for the year. We're just trying to find the safest way for the family, and this is it."