Two-thirds of the NFL teams have players who are opting out because of the pandemic. If any Dolphin declines to play, he won’t need our approval or owe us an explanation.

When veteran left tackle Nate Solder informed the New York Giants, and then everyone else, he was opting out of the 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic, he released a statement explaining why.

His three paragraphs were, by any thinking-person’s measure, wrenching. Solder first mentioned his deep faith, then cited his son’s cancer, then his own bout with the disease, and finally concerns for his 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,” he wrote.

“Nate Softer” — that was one of the replies NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport received upon reporting the news. Several others felt compelled to cite the number of sacks Solder allowed — as if anyone needed further evidence of how Twitter can devolve into the electronic equivalent to what Andy Dufresne crawled through to achieve freedom in “The Shawshank Redemption.”

Thankfully, the venom wasn’t unanimous. Rich Zagon, who describes himself as a big Giants fan, tore into the critics.

“What this guy has going on at home with his family is serious and everyone should 100% respect this decision and pray for he and his son's health,” Zagon tweeted.

In the past week, two-thirds of the NFL’s 32 teams have lost players because of concerns for the coronavirus.

The Dolphins, thus far, are not among them, although ex-Dolphins Damien Williams and Brandon Bolden have opted out. Speaking on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Williams revealed that his mother has Stage 4 cancer.

What would be the reaction if a Dolphin decides to sit this one out?

Will it matter what his reasoning is? Will it matter what his name is? Will it matter who his replacement is? Will it matter if it upsets fantasy plans? If your answer to any of those four questions is anything but a resounding no, try staring in the mirror for a few hours.

This assumes, of course, that any of the opt-outs or opt-ins will matter in the long run. It assumes there will be a 16-game season, or some reasonable facsimile thereof. As the public’s caseloads and death totals continue to rise, science warns us that we don’t know if cooler weather in the late fall and winter — you know, football and flu season — will worsen matters. That’s not the media wishing bad luck on the season, as some have ridiculously suggested. That’s being real.

One thing we do know: Few if any franchises face the challenges the Dolphins do here in South Florida. That’s why coach Brian Flores is warning players of “sacrifices” that must be made to avoid the same fate as the neighboring Marlins.

You know the saying “faith, family and football”? Philadelphia Eagles receiver Marquise Goodwin also ranks them in that order. Speaking on SiriusXM NFL Radio, Goodwin said he and his wife have lost three infants and aren’t about to take chances with their current child, so he opted out.

“That was a no-brainer for me,” he said.

Depending on a player’s situation, he may still collect a portion of his salary anyway, but that too wasn’t paramount in Goodwin’s mind.

“You could pay me $150 billion and I would still choose my family,” he said.

Players who opt out are officially placed into one of three categories: voluntary, higher-risk (for those with pre-existing medical conditions) and unspecified. You might wonder why, because in a country where our health records are fiercely protected, this really is not any of our business.

If a player opts out because, say, he has COPD, he owes none of us an explanation. If his wife or child has a heart condition, we don’t need to know. Ditto if he fears for an elderly parent or grandparent.

What is important isn’t what he owes, but what is owed him — from his organization, his coaches, his teammates and, yes, fans.

Respect for a personal decision.

hhabib@pbpost.com

@gunnerhal

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