New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower, a former University of Alabama standout, is expected to opted out of playing the 2020 NFL season due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to an ESPN report.

Hightower is the third former UA player to announce this week that he will opt out of the 2020 NFL season, joining offensive linemen Andre Smith of the Baltimore Ravens and Chance Warmack of the Seattle Seahawks.

Hightower would be the fifth Patriot to opt out of playing this season. He recently became a father and cited family considerations as part of his decision.

“Me and my fiancée are just more concerned with the health of our family than football — especially the new addition to our family,” he told NFL Network.

Hightower is the second Nashville area professional athlete to opt out of playing this season. Former Vanderbilt and Blackman pitcher David Price has chosen not to play this MLB season.

Hightower has been a key part of the Patriots’ defense during the teams’ most recent three Super Bowl wins. The 30-year-old had 71 tackles and eight for loss in 15 games last season.

Hightower, a 2008 Marshall County graduate, won the Tennessee Titans Class 3A Mr. Football award his senior year and was The Tennessean’s Defensive Player of the Year. He was also a member of The Tennessean’s “Dream Team.”


Tom Kreager of The (Nashville) Tennesseean contributed to this report.