Kansas City Chiefs lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has become the first player to opt out of the 2020 NFL season, citing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Canadian guard, a practicing medical doctor who was a key part of the Chiefs' Super Bowl-winning campaign last season, made the announcement on social media.
"This is one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make in my life but I must follow my convictions and do what I believe is right for me personally," the 29-year-old from Quebec said.
"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 I love. If I am to take risks, I will do it caring for patients."
Duvernay-Tardif's decision was applauded by Chiefs team-mate Tyreek Hill, who wrote on Twitter: "Gonna miss my brother in the locker room, but I love this move."
Duvernay-Tardif's announcement comes as NFL teams prepare to open training camps for a season that has already been impacted by COVID-19.
This week the NFL confirmed that the entire slate of pre-season exhibition games played through August and early September had been cancelled.
On Monday, the NFL bowed to demands from players for daily coronavirus testing for the first two weeks of training camp after a series of players had expressed concerns over safety protocols for the upcoming campaign.
Duvernay-Tardif, who was drafted by the Chiefs in 2014, created a piece of NFL history last season when he became the first practicing medical doctor to play in the Super Bowl.
A student of Montreal's prestigious McGill University Faculty of Medicine, Duvernay-Tardif juggled his NFL career and his studies, graduating in May 2018 with a doctorate in medicine and masters in surgery.
Kansas City Chiefs guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has opted out of the upcoming NFL season citing concerns over COVID-19