Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is the first NFL player to opt out of the upcoming football season, citing concerns about the coronavirus.
Duvernay-Tardif, 29, has a unique perspective. He’s the only active NFL player who is licensed to practice medicine and spent the past few months caring for patients in his native Canada.
In a statement posted on Twitter, he said opting out of the upcoming NFL season is “one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make in my life,” but added he needed to follow his convictions and “do what I believe is right for me personally.”
Duvernay-Tardif said his experience working in a clinic during the pandemic helped him make the decision. By opting out, he will receive $150,000 as part of the deal between the NFL and the players’ association.
“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. I cannot allow myself to potentially transmit the virus in our communities simply to play the sport that I love," he wrote. "If I am to take risks, I will do it caring for patients."
Duvernay-Tardif was drafted by the Chiefs in 2014 and managed to play football and attend medical school during that time. He graduated from the McGill University Faculty of Medicine in May 2018.
The 6’5” player, who weighs more than 300 pounds, said patients occasionally recognized him in the emergency room when he was a medical student and would even get excited having him stitch their wounds.
“Honestly, I’m simply thankful for the opportunity to treat them, and in rare cases, yes, to give them my autograph,” he wrote in a 2017 essay for The Players’ Tribune. “My ultimate goals have always been to promote and push the concept of being a student-athlete at the highest level — to show that it is possible to pursue two very different passions.”
While he’s sitting this season out, Duvernay-Tardif said he knows his teammates will follow strong safety procedures when training camp begins July 28. The regular NFL season kicks off September 10.
“There is no doubt in my mind the Chiefs' medical staff have put together a strong plan to minimize the health risks associated with COVID-19,” he said. “But some risks will remain.”