Ja'Wuan James Releases Statement on why he Opted Out of 2020 Season
On Monday, offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James notified the Denver Broncos that he has decided to opt-out of the 2020 season, as is his right under the newly negotiated NFL CBA amendments. The news sent shockwaves through the Mile High City as fans, media, and the team alike tried to process and understand James' decision.
Not long after the news broke, James posted a statement on Twitter where he provided the rationale for his decision to opt-out.
"After continuous conversation with my family over the past couple weeks about the NFL figuring out the plan for the 2020 season, I've decided to opt out. It is tough, but the right decision. There's just too much unknown about this virus and about plans handling it going forward. My wife and I were blessed with our newborn son May 22 and he's now my top priority. Although I worked all offseason and invested in my body to bounce back and have a great year on the field, it's just not worth risking the health of my loved ones. I've seen this virus already hospitalized one of my family members and hope to not have that happen again. We can't live in fear or just confine ourselves just to our homes but we all have to make the right conscious choices and navigate through day to day life to protect our neighbors.
"To my teammates I reached out to before making this decision, I appreciate your input and acknowledgment that the man comes first before the football player. All my brothers around the league, I pray for you and your families' safety throughout the season and rest of the pandemic. To the Denver Community, these first two years weren't what I expected them to be when arriving here. I know you don't know me well and a false narrative was painted of me last year due to comments made about my injury, but I am invested in this city and my team. I look forward to the future we have here, but in that same breath, I'm even more invested in my family. Everyone make sure to stay positive through these crazy times and enjoy your loved ones. I hope 2021 will be a better year for all of us. Take care of yourselves, because ultimately, health is wealth."
The "false narrative" James is speaking to centers around the public messaging the Broncos took last year after he went down with a nagging knee injury in Week 1. He would go on to appear in just three games with 63 total snaps.
This, while taking home a combined $17 million between his signing bonus and guaranteed base salary. James claims he tore part of his meniscus and that the team pushed him to return too soon. He appeared in Week 1, going down about 10 snaps in, which was followed by nearly two months' worth of absence when he reappeared on the road in Week 8. Then, in Week 14, he played again for the first half only, because he claims his knee was buckling on him.
There are two sides to every story and the truth is usually somewhere in the middle. Whatever the truth is on last year's developments, the greater reality is that James developed a reputation for being 'soft' long before signing with the Broncos.
The Miami Dolphins purportedly were "laughing" at the Broncos for giving him a then-record $52M contract, which included $32M fully guaranteed. Most fans, suffice to say, now 18 months into the James experiment, understand why the Dolphins yucked it up when the Broncos signed him.
James bailed on the 2020 season. He has a newborn son. It's his prerogative. But his teammates, and fellow Americans, who will continue to put their head down and go to work each day, despite the coronavirus pandemic, might find it difficult to sympathize with him.
For what it's worth, the Broncos have been lauded for their Infectious Disease Emergency Response plan, which is painstaking and comprehensive. It's impossible to 100 percent eliminate any and all risk to exposure when anyone steps outside their front door but the Broncos have done everything within their power to mitigate those risks down to about as low as they can get.
James' reputation for being soft will continue to hound him. Half of his statement was posturing against that reputation and "false narrative" as he calls it (remember, there are two sides to the story). The Broncos will move on with Elijah Wilkinson penciled in as the starting right tackle but I can't help but wonder what the future holds for James in Denver because I can't imagine that the team brass, after the tens of millions of dollars the Broncos have paid James, is going to take this well behind closed doors.