De'Anthony Thomas became the first Ravens player to opt-out of the 2020 season because of ongoing concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic under an agreement between the league and the NFLPA.
Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif became the first player to opt-out of the upcoming season on July 24. Duvernay-Tardif has a doctorate in medicine and plans to continue working at a long-care term facility outside of Montreal.
Thomas, who was signed to the Ravens’ 53-man roster in Week 10, returned 13 punts for 93 yards (7.2 avg.) and posted 10 kickoff returns for 166 yards (16.6 avg.) in eight games.
He re-signed with the Ravens on a one-year deal in March.
"He's done everything right," special team coach Chris Horton said last season. "And I know he hasn't had a big punt return yet, but you know what? Those things are going to happen for us. He's doing everything we've asked of him, and everything has to happen right the right way.
"You look at punt returns and when they happen, it has to be the right ball. It has to be a ball that we can return, and he's making great decisions while he's back there.”
Thomas also spent time with the Kansas City Chiefs, who selected him in the fourth round (124th overall) of the 2014 NFL Draft. Thomas made an immediate impact.
He earned AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after recording 156 punt-return yards against the Oakland Raiders on Dec. 14, 2014, ranking as the second-highest single-game total in Chiefs history.
With Thomas out, the Ravens could rely on rookie James Proche to take over as the main returner. Last season, Proche led SMU with 17 punt returns for 164 yards.
“He’s really instinctive, has really good vision,” said Joe Hortiz, the Ravens' director of player personnel. “Again, he catches it really secure, but then he gets upfield quick. He doesn’t waste time trying to go east and west. He gets upfield and he has that vision and balance where he can make guys miss along the way and can get positive yards.”