Mazz: Is this the price of the Patriot Way?

By Tony Massarotti, 98.5 The Sports Hub

The Patriot Way goes something like this: use your head, take a little less, win a lot more. The thinking is sound and logical, and more than anything it is smart.

And so today, for all that might and can be said about Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung and Marcus Cannon, among others, here is what we can say without hesitation or doubt: they are smart. Smart on the field, smart off it, smart to the end.

Hightower, Chung and Cannon head a list of six Patriots players who have opted out of the 2020 NFL season in recent days, all for reasons that are both personal and obvious. In the NFL, sooner or later, you can indeed reach a point where the punishment is no longer worth it, especially if you have what those three men possess.

Brains. Money. Championships.

The Patriots lost one of their best big-game players when Dont'a Hightower opted out. (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

Think about it: why, exactly, does Hightower have to risk anything anymore? He has won three Super Bowl titles and made some of the biggest defensive plays in recent Patriots history. He has earned more than $44 million. Cannon and Chung? Been to five Super Bowls, won three, made more than $30 million each. The game has given them plenty. They owe it - or anyone - nothing more.

Maybe there is more to the story. Or maybe this is the easiest explanation for why the Patriots have had more opt-outs to date than any other team in the NFL.

Simply put, Patriots like Hightower, Chung and Cannon have less to play for than anyone else now. Especially in the midst of a pandemic. Especially after the departure of Tom Brady. Especially with so much doubt, on the field and off.

Patrick Chung made great sacrifices to become a three-time Super Bowl champion with the Patriots. (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

Of course, there are questions that remain here, on the field and off, because there always are. Did the Patriots expect these withdrawals? Can they withstand them? Are there more to come? And is there any chance that we have seen the last of Hightower, Chung and Cannon, with a combined 30 years of experience between them, even in an age where it is more common for NFL players to take absences as if they are sabbaticals?

The best guess?

We’ve seen the last of them.

After all, for all of the reasons that those three players opted out, they have the same ones not to come back.

You can hear Tony Massarotti weekdays from 2-6 p.m. EST on the Felger & Massarotti program. Follow him on Twitter @TonyMassarotti.