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Tackle Marcus Gilbert Opts Out Of Playing 2020 Season

Veteran said high-risk status is reason for decision

Cardinals offensive lineman Marcus Gilbert (76) blocks during an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019 in Glendale, Ariz.

The Cardinals had been one of the few teams without a player either testing positive for the coronavirus or having one opt out of the season because of it.

That changed Tuesday when offensive tackle Marcus Gilbert – who was expected to start at right tackle assuming he had fully recovered from an ACL tear last season – decided to opt out for the year.

"After much thought and prayer, I have decided to opt out of the 2020 NFL season," Gilbert wrote on Twitter. "While this decision was not easy for me, I felt it was the best decision due to my standing as a high-risk player with high-risk family members.

"I am grateful for the opportunities that have been afforded to me over many years on the NFL and I look forward to returning stronger than ever for the 2021 NFL season."

Gilbert, 32, had re-signed on a one-year minimum deal. It makes Justin Murray, who started most of the 2019 season, the presumed leader as starter at right tackle, although third-round pick Josh Jones could make a play and the Cardinals also signed veteran tackle Kelvin Beachum.

Players can opt out up until 1 p.m. Arizona time Thursday, unless it is determined later they have developed a high-risk condition or they have a family member who passes away or is hospitalized for the coronavirus.

"That's obviously an area we respect and understand every person in this league has to do what's best for themselves and their families," Kingsbury said prior to Gilbert's announcement. "I think you see the league being very understanding of that, and want guys to do what they need to do in their own personal lives."

Gilbert's one-year contract tolls – meaning he will enter the 2021 season under the same deal he had for 2020 with the Cardinals. As a high-risk player he is entitled to a $350,000 stipend, although that would be applied as a pay advance to his 2021 salary.

Gilbert and tight end Maxx Williams had been on the NFI-illness list, but Kingsbury earlier Tuesday had called it procedural and that both Gilbert and Williams would be activated soon. Williams was officially activated Tuesday afternoon after passing his physical.

Optimism had been good with Gilbert. Health on the field was the lone question. Gilbert was arguably the team's best offensive lineman in camp last year before he tore his ACL in the Thursday practice before the regular-season opener.

"(Marcus) has been a really good player in this league a long time, and if he can start off at that level, then he's going to slide back in there," Kingsbury said last week.

Instead, the Cardinals will go in a different direction. Murray started 12 games last season and was one of the most improved players on the roster, the coaches believed. Jones figures to be the future at right tackle, but he remains somewhat raw and rookies are particularly behind this season after the offseason work was wiped out. Beachum, recently signed, has started 99 games in his career, although he has primarily been a left tackle.

OFFENSIVE LINEMAN SIGNED: The Cardinals signed offensive lineman Koda Martin Tuesday according to the NFL's transaction wire, where he was listed as a guard. Martin briefly spent time as an undrafted rookie last year with the Chargers.

Images of the Cardinals veterans practicing Monday for the first time in 2020, presented by Hyundai.

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