New Lions LB Jamie Collins never considered opting out: 'For me, it's just deal with it'
The deadline for players to opt out of the 2020 NFL season passed Thursday afternoon, with more than 60 around the league choosing to sit the year out. And no team saw more players exercise the collectively-bargain option than eight in New England.
Detroit Lions linebacker Jamie Collins, a free-agent addition who spent the better part of five years playing for the Patriots, could easily have followed suit. At 30 years old, and a young son at home, Collins already has earned both millions of dollars and a Super Bowl ring during his seven-year career.
But after some brief conversations with family members, Collins found the idea of not playing far worse than the alternative.
"I can't speak on nobody else, but me," Collins said. "Everyone is impacted by (the COVID-19 pandemic). Nobody is exempt. Nobody. For me, it's just deal with it. I'm at home every day, bored, eating, getting big. Whatever the situation is, I don't want to drown in my sorrows or be depressed. ... If I can just come to a new situation dealing with all this stuff, maybe some good will come out of it.
"I never just looked at it, you know what, I'm just going to opt out, just get away from it," Collins continued. "I didn't ever look at it like that, but like I said, everybody's situation is different. I've always up for a task. I'm never shying away from nothing. I'm just eager and ready to get here. It's a new situation for me. Why not? Just go in and dive in to the situation. Take it all on, instead of just taking this year off and coming back next year and I'm still new."
That's not to say Collins liked the way the situation has played out. He wasn't thrilled the league slapped an aggressive deadline on players making the highly personal decision to opt out, but he also realized it was outside of his control.
As for his expectations for how the pandemic will alter the upcoming season, in light of seeing multiple MLB games postponed due to the virus outbreaks, Collins wouldn't be surprised if the NFL has to deal with similar issues.
"The season is definitely like, I don't know, it's going to get put on hold," Collins said. "You're going to have to miss a couple games, a lot of guys are going to test positive and whatever, that's going to happen. You can't run from it. Nobody is exempt. Just got to deal with it, man, and pray for the best, hope for the best, next man up mentality. That's been the mantra — next man up."
Collins bigger concern, understandably, is protecting his family. He noted that it will be important for teammates to hold each other accountable outside of work to make sure their not exposing each other to unnecessary risks.
"Everybody's grown around here, everybody's got family, everybody's got their own responsibilities," Collins said. "That's how we become a brotherhood — you hold your brother accountable. You can't always hold his hand and walk across the street, you know what I'm saying? ... I know you're going to do the right thing when I'm there; I need to know you're going to do the right thing when I'm not there. And that's what's really important. You harp on that so much."
The Lions are counting on Collins, a versatile veteran familiar with coach Matt Patricia's schemes, to help stabilize and elevate a defense that finished near the bottom of the league in many key areas a season ago.
It doesn't hurt that Collins is coming off one of his best seasons. In 16 games (14 starts), he tallied 81 tackles, seven sacks, seven pass breakups, three interceptions and three forced fumbles.
He joins a unit in Detroit where he'll play alongside several former New England teammates, including Trey Flowers, Justin Coleman, Duron Harmon and Danny Shelton.
But Collins also quickly has clicked with one of his new teammates, Jarrad Davis.
"It was kind of different at first, with everything being virtual, but we kind like locked in and picked up immediately," Collins said. "It didn't take long. He's a professional. I'm a professional. We're both linebackers and I think we are all just trying to achieve the same goal.
"That's my brother from another mother," Collins continued. "We're in here working together. We've got to deal with this whole situation together. And like I said, we linebackers, man. We're like the kings of the team. We've got to hold everything down. We've got to be as one. If we're not together, the team's not going to be together."