Returning to the Super Bowl is the clear goal for the San Francisco 49ers in 2020. They want to rewrite the wrongs from their fourth-quarter collapse, which is why this season is dubbed the Revenge Tour.
However, the 2020 NFL season is not going to be a typical one with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. One of the main factors that makes the 2020 season bizarre is that there will be players opting out of playing. Plenty of players from across the league have already put their name in the hat to exclude themselves from the season in fear catching the coronavirus. Prominent players like Chiefs running back Damien Williams, Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr, and Patriots safety Patrick Chung are among the handful.
As of now, there are no players from the 49ers who have opted out. But of course as with all things that could change for them. It was only less than a couple of weeks ago that Dre Greenlaw himself tweeted "I want to play but don't want to get sick".
This is a very fluid situation. Players could start to have a change of heart about playing and forgo their season, especially if some start testing positive. Running back Jeff Wilson Jr. is one player in question about it as the 49ers placed him on the COVID/Reserve list.
The 49ers are embarking on their journey to the Super Bowl soon, but could be hurt by the fact that some of their key players could end up opting out.
If that were to happen, could the 49ers be granted an asterisk for the 2020 season?
Not at all.
That isn't how this works unfortunately. You play within the parameters of the rules for the season. Even though this is obviously uncharted waters for the year, this is a sink-or-swim league. Whoever adapts the best always emerges on top. That will always remain a fact in the NFL whether it is coaching or adjusting to a new reality.
There is no better team out there to adapt than the 49ers with the coaching staff they have. Should a key player choose to opt out, then it is on the coaches to get the most out of their depth players to fill in. They proved they are capable of that last season when half of the team sustained an injury. Emmanuel Moseley, Greenlaw, Daniel Brunskill and so many more are a perfect example of it.
Losing key players is never ideal since it lessens the likelihood of a team's success.
But this is where the coaches earn their money. Either they are going to sulk about the loss or they are going to do what they can to shrink the hole left by that key player.
No one is going to play the 49ers a sad violin tune if they get bounced from the playoffs.
There will be and should be no excuses if they have key players missing. Injuries happen all the time in the league. And for hopefully this season only, players opting out is a reality that does not warrant an asterisk.
This is still a "go for the gold" season for the 49ers. Anything less than that will be deemed a failure.