Giants tackle Nate Solder opts out of season, citing son's cancer and his own cancer history

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Nate Solder #76 of the New York Giants in action against the Washington Redskins during their game at MetLife Stadium on September 29, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. - Al Bello/Getty Images North America/TNS

NEW YORK — Giants left tackle Nate Solder opted out of the 2020 NFL season on Wednesday due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Solder, 32, is a cancer survivor, which qualifies him as “higher risk” in the NFL’s and NFL Players’ Association’s COVID Amendments to the 2020 collective bargaining agreement.

Solder’s 5-year-old son Hudson also continues to battle cancer himself.

As a higher risk player, Solder is eligible for a stipend of $350,000 instead of the $9.9 million in base salary he was scheduled to make. He already was paid a $3 million roster bonus, though, for being on the roster past March 18.

Solder still will receive an accrued season toward free agency and all benefits and minimum salary credit for a credited season. And his contract will “toll” for the year and apply in 2021 instead, although he cannot be paid the same roster bonus twice.

No. 4 overall pick Andrew Thomas already was going to get the chance to compete with Solder for the starting left tackle job. Solder’s decision to opt out increases the likelihood that if there is an NFL season this fall, Thomas will be protecting Daniel Jones’ blind side.

“My family and I have been praying, wrestling and listening to God about our current circumstances and whether it is best that I play football this season,” Solder said in a statement he posted on Twitter. “Our primary goal is to pursue God and listen to the Holy Spirit in everything we do. As hard as that can be and as daunting as what He asks us to do can seem, we have come to believe, trust and wait on the Lord. That is why we have chosen to pause for this season.

“Our family has health concerns, most notably our son’s ongoing battle with cancer, as well as my own bout with cancer,” Solder continued. “We also welcomed a new addition to our family this spring, a baby boy. With fear and trembling, we struggle to keep our priorities in order and, for us, our children’s health and the health of our neighbors comes before football.

“We fully recognize that being able to make a decision like this is a privilege,” he added. “I will deeply miss my teammates, coaches and everyone in the Giants organization. I want to thank them and all my friends and fans who continue to support me and my family through the highs and the lows. As scary and bleak as it sometimes can be, we know that the God of the universe has all things under His control, and His plans are and will always be for our good.”

Giants GM Dave Gettleman, who made Solder the NFL’s highest-paid offensive lineman in March 2018 at four years and $62 million, told the Giants’ website on Wednesday that he has “great respect” for Solder as a player and person.

Head coach Joe Judge, who spent six seasons with Solder in New England (2012-17) as a Patriots assistant, called the two-time Super Bowl winner “a thoughtful, conscientious person.”

Judge said the Giants’ concern is for the family’s health and well-being.

“We support Nate and Lexi and their children: Hudson, (daughter) Charlie and (son) Emerson,” Judge added.

Hudson Solder was diagnosed with a rare Wilms tumor in both kidneys at three months old. During the Giants’ bye week last season, Hudson underwent surgery to have a tumor removed before beginning his third round of chemotherapy.

Nate Solder is also a cancer survivor. A routine physical prior to the 2014 season showed he had testicular cancer. Doctors surgically removed the testicle and determined the cancer had not spread. Solder missed only two weeks of the team’s offseason workouts and started all 19 games as the Patriots won Super Bowl XLIX.

Two months later, because he wanted to spread awareness, Solder finally revealed that he had been diagnosed and cured of cancer. Six months after his admission, the family learned Hudson had a rare form of pediatric kidney cancer.

Solder has been a captain in both of his Giants seasons and was one of only three Giants to start every game in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, along with left guard Will Hernandez and defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson.

Solder also was the Giants’ 2019 Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee, an honor he also received with New England in 2017. The former Patriots first-round pick has played in four Super Bowls and 130 career regular-season games with 127 starts.

Third-year pro Nick Gates, free agent acquisition Cam Fleming and backup Eric Smith all are competing for the left tackle spot, as well.

But it would be an upset if Thomas did not start the most games at the position in 2020.

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