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Just minutes before the news that Eddie Goldman opted out of playing the 2020 NFL season over COVID-19 concerns, I tweeted out a nervous meme.

I braced myself and feared for the worst as news started rolling in from around the league about other players opting out. Would there be any Bears players jumping ship? What would the season look like, assuming the NFL is able to get a full slate in?

Then the news hit. The Bears’ young stud defensive tackle elected to skip the 2020 campaign. Just like that, the optimism over a resurgent defense waned just a smidge.

Bears will survive without Goldman

In terms of star power, Goldman was one of the most notable NFL players to opt out on Tuesday. His void in the middle of the Bears’ defensive front will certainly be felt. Fortunately, the Bears have such strength on that side of the ball that they’ll do just fine. But we’d be silly to assume his absence won’t mean anything.

Goldman is a solid run stuffer and created lanes for the linebackers to make plays. Veteran Danny Trevathan called him an inside linebacker’s “best friend.”

Without Goldman this year, the Bears’ run defense will suffer a little. I have visions of the Raiders’ Josh Jacobs running wild last year in London — although, in fairness, that was without Akiem Hicks for most of the game.

The Bears could look outside the organization to replace him, but they will also employ a “next man up” mentality. Bilal Nichols will get his chance to step up and fill some mighty big shoes. Additional pressure will be placed on Roy Robertson-Harris and Akiem Hicks to plug the middle.

Frustration over COVID-19 mounting

I can’t say I’m angry at Goldman, or any other player for opting out. If it were me, I would play. The death rate for people under 65 is very small. For those under 35 — the range in which most NFL players fall — it’s ridiculously small.

I can understand players who don’t want to get themselves or their families sick. Being sick is miserable. But getting COVID-19 is not a death sentence for the young and otherwise healthy.

Yes, football is a game, but it’s also a job. And the majority of these players want to play football and go back to work. I salute the NFL and the players union for hammering out an agreement on testing protocols and for trying to resume a “normal” life — at least as normal as can be expected in times like this.

I sincerely hope there is a full football season this year. Like any fan, I selfishly want to fill my entertainment bucket with the sport I most love. I don’t want anything serious to happen to these players, and I’m confident nothing will — assuming the players have no underlying medical conditions such as asthma or past cancer diagnoses.

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