Chiefs' Duvernay-Tardif first player to skip season over COVID-19

(Reuters) - Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif on Friday opted out of the upcoming NFL season due to risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, becoming the first player to announce his decision to skip the new campaign.

Duvernay-Tardif, the league’s only active player who is a medical doctor, spent the summer working at a clinic in his native Canada. He said if he were going to take any risks with his health, it would be to continue to assist on the frontline.

“This is one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make in my life but I must follow my convictions and do what I believe is right,” the 29-year-old wrote on Twitter. “That is why I have decided to take the opt-out option.”

“Being at the frontline during this offseason has given me a different perspective on this pandemic and the stress it puts on individuals and our healthcare system,” added Duvernay-Tardif, who started 14 games for the Super Bowl champions last season.

“I cannot allow myself to potentially transmit the virus in our communities simply to play the sport that I love. If I am to take risks, I will do it caring for patients.”

Duvernay-Tardif did not specify whether he would continue working in the clinic during the season.

The NFL and its players’ union agreed on changes to the 2020 collective bargaining agreement on Friday, clearing the way for training camp and the upcoming season.

ESPN said that as part of the agreement, players considered at high risk of contracting COVID-19 can earn $350,000 if they choose to opt out of the season, while those that are not at risk can earn $150,000 for opting out.

The NFL will reopen training camps for all players on July 28, with the season opener slated for Sept. 10.

Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by William Mallard