BOSTON — A person familiar with the situation says New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower has decided to opt out of the 2020 season.
Hightower’s decision was made out of concern for the health of his fiancée and child, who was born earlier this month, the person said.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Patriots have not announced the decision.
Hightower has been a staple of New England’s defense since being drafted in the first round in 2012, helping the Patriots win three Super Bowls. The two-time Pro Bowler signed a four-year, $35.5 million contract in 2017. He was scheduled to make an $8 million base salary this season.
His absence is the latest blow to a Patriots linebacking group that saw key contributors Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts leave the team in free agency.
Later Tuesday, Buffalo Bills starting defensive tackle Star Lotulelei opted out from playing this season.