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The growing number of Patriots opt-outs is fueling conspiracy theories

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The growing number of Patriots opt-outs is fueling conspiracy theories


Bill Belichick always has a plan.

After inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower, right tackle Marcus Cannon, safety Patrick Chung, running back Brandon Bolden, fullback Danny Vitale and lineman Najee Toran all opted out of the 2020 NFL season amid coronavirus concerns, things began to look bleak for the Patriots season. But a league executive who spoke to ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday remains confident that Belichick will find a way to make the situation work in his team’s favor.

“Bill is masterminding all of this somehow,” the source told Schefter via text message.

A growing list of NFL players have bowed out of the season — coincidentally as MLB deals with the Marlins’ coronavirus outbreak — though the trend has hit the Patriots organization disproportionately hard. According to CNN, the opt-outs from New England comprise about one-third of all the players opting out across the league.

“I don’t know [what the reason is]! That’s why he is who he is!” the source added.

With no further details provided, one possible interpretation (that many on social media concluded) is that Belichick sees his team’s declining star power as an organic way to find a successor for six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, who left via free agency in March, without having to tank intentionally.

The logical target — not just for the Patriots — would be Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. But with the Heisman frontrunner expected to be highly sought-after and a favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the team would have to end the season with an abysmal record in a soft AFC East to even have a chance at drafting him.

Losing intentionally would typically be an anathema for the stern head coach, and the “Tank for Trevor” theory was quickly rebuffed by current and former players alike.

“No way in hell Belichick tanks this year,” former Patriots cornerback Darius Butler wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “Anyone who’s saying that has never been around the guy!”

Chung chimed in and quote-tweeted Butler, “Whoever said that is dumb.”

Belichick-ian or not, the reality is that the calculus has shifted significantly this offseason. The jilted coach and de facto general manager has to rebuild the dynasty he and Brady built in their 20-year run together, with a quarterback room comprised of Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer.

The team was unable to pursue a high-ticket quarterback during free agency due to salary-cap limitations, and eventually signed Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP and former No. 1 overall pick, to a veteran minimum deal in June.

If healthy, the 31-year-old dual threat could bring a lot to the Patriots offense, but Lawrence offers a more attractive long-term solution.

Lawrence, 20, led the Tigers to a National Championship in 2019 as a freshman and has earned a bounty of awards to date, including USA Today’s 2017 High School Player of the Year, 2018 ACC Rookie of the Year, 2018 Cotton Bowl MVP, 2018 CFP National Championship MVP, 2019 First Team All-ACC and 2019 Fiesta Bowl MVP.



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Don’t Count Hillary Out

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Don’t Count Hillary Out



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Remembering Judge Stephen F. Williams

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On Saturday, I noted with sadness the passing of the Honorable Stephen F. Williams, a senior judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Given Judge Williams’ importance for administrative law and the academy, I thought it was worth noting some of the additional remembrances and celebrations of his life that have been posted since.

Several of Judge Williams’ former clerks memorialize him at Notice & Comment, where Aaron Nielson also celebrates Williams’ intellectual legacy and notes the large number of legal academics who clerked in his chambers. TheWashington Post obituary is here.

Judge Williams was a regular panelist and participant in programs at the American Enterprise Institute. In 2002 he lectured on legal reform in early 20th-century Russia (broadcast on C-Span), a subject that he also addressed in two books. AEI remembers Judge Williams here.

In 2006, a portrait of Judge Williams was hung at the D.C. Circuit. A transcript of that ceremony, including remarks from his colleagues and several former clerks, can be found here.

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Jeffrey Epstein hanged himself one year ago, setting off wave of conspiracy theories and celebrity denials

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Jeffrey Epstein hanged himself one year ago, setting off wave of conspiracy theories and celebrity denials


Jeffrey Epsteins death, regardless of circumstances, robbed his victims of the chance to confront him in court. What we need to remember about Epstein is not how he died, but the terrible damage he and his cohorts did to countless young girls when he was alive and, by remembering, commit ourselves to bringing to justice his cohorts and enablers, and to never again tolerating such abuse, said attorney David Boies, who represents some Epstein accusers.

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