NFL veteran players who will resort to backup roles in 2020

Players opt out of NFL season over coronavirus concerns

National Football League players are preparing for what would be a very unusual season in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, as dozens of others are opting out choosing not to take the risk; Mike Tobin reports.

The next young crop of NFL players is set to make its debut this season with a handful of them taking starting roles and pushing some players to latch onto rosters as backups.

Some of the most well-known veterans are projected to be on teams’ depth charts as the No. 2 or No. 3 player. Many players shifted teams during the offseason and may even confuse the casual fan with their new threads.

Players like Jameis Winston and Josh Norman changed teams in the offseason but will have to first start the season as backups.

Here are some of the veterans who will take backup roles this season.




Wearing the name of Jacob Blake on his helmet, New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston (2) dances during an NFL football training camp practice inside the Ochsner Sports Performance Center in Metairie, La., Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020. (David Grunfeld/The Advocate via AP, Pool)



The Bears acquired Super Bowl 52 MVP Nick Foles to compete with former No. 2 draft pick Mitchell Trubisky for the starting quarterback job, one of several moves to shake up an offense that ranked among the NFL’s worst last season. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)



Adrian Peterson latched on with the Lions. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)



New York Jets running back Frank Gore (25) rushes during a practice at the NFL football team’s training camp in Florham Park, N.J., Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Frank Gore is the active leader in rushing yards and somehow found a team to play for prior to the start of the 2020 season. Gore, who is entering his 16th season in the NFL, has 15,347 rushing yards and is No. 3 all-time on the career rushing yards list behind Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton. Gore signed with the New York Jets in the offseason and will need a significant number of carries to even come close to Smith on the list.



Jason Witten signed with the Las Vegas Raiders in the offseason. (Kellen Micah/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)

Jason Witten came back to football prior to the start of the 2019 season. The former Dallas Cowboys tight end had 63 catches for 29 yards and four touchdowns as a 37-year-old pass catcher in 2019. In 2020, he finds himself backing up Darren Waller with the Las Vegas Raiders. Witten is definitely going to be a Hall of Famer but seeing him with anything other than a star on his helmet is going to be strange.



Quarterback Alex Smith was activated Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020, off the physically unable to perform list by Washington’s NFL team, the latest step in his remarkable recovery after his right leg was broken in two places during a game nearly two years ago. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivai, Files)

Alex Smith is a backup for Washington for a whole other reason. He suffered a life-threatening leg injury during the 2018 season but has worked his way back to becoming the No. 2 quarterback on the Washington depth chart. Washington will start the season with Dwayne Haskins taking snaps, but unless there is a significant setback, Smith could be back on the field at some point this season.



Josh Norman was once one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL, but in 2020 he may have had to settle for a backup role. Norman was traded to the Buffalo Bills in the offseason. He is listed as a backup to Levi Wallace. He had 40 total tackles and an interception in 12 games last season for Washington.



Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back LeSean McCoy (25) runs a route during an NFL football training camp practice Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

LeSean McCoy was among the veteran players who signed with the Buccaneers in the offseason. McCoy, when he does play, will be getting the ball from Tom Brady. McCoy was a top pass-catching running back earlier in his career and will try to show the team there is still some juice left as he enters his age-32 season.



Nelson Agholor lined up for the Philadelphia Eagles for five seasons before opting for another team in the 2020 offseason. Agholor signed with the Las Vegas Raiders but he is not one of the top three wide receivers on the Raiders’ depth chart. Rookie Henry Ruggs III, Hunter Renfrow and Bryan Edwards are the top three receivers for Vegas. It will be interesting to see how Agholor fits in during the season.




New Orleans Saints safety D.J. Swearinger (36) goes through drills during NFL football practice in New Orleans, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, Pool)

D.J. Swearinger made his mark as a safety with the Washington Football Team during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. In 2019, he played for three teams and still managed to have 50 total tackles in nine games. This season, the veteran defensive back will settle for a backup role for the Saints. But even as a backup, Swearinger is poised to make his mark alongside players like Malcolm Jenkins and Marcus Williams.

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