Nate Solder’s gut-wrenching Giants decision should be applauded
Wellington Mara as the Giants patriarch balanced his franchise on three pillars: Faith. Family. Football.
Nate Solder embodies those tenets and took them to heart when he made what had to be a gut-wrenching yet logical, necessary decision to, as he posted on Twitter, “pause for this season.’’ He has opted out for 2020, and if ever a player needed to opt out, amid real and ever-present concerns about the treacherous tentacles of COVID-19, it is Solder.
Good for him. Football can wait. The health and safety of his growing family cannot.
The Giants as of Tuesday knew this was a possibility. Solder did not indicate to the team he was considering opting out and the expectation was he would report, get tested and join in training camp this week. This hardly blindsided the Giants, though. They know the man and the father and there were some in the organization who wondered all along how Solder could choose to play.
“He is doing what’s best for his family,’’ general manager Dave Gettleman said.
Solder and his wife, Lexi, have endured a four-year battle with their son, Hudson, who at three months old was diagnosed with cancerous tumors in his kidneys. Hudson received treatment in Boston when Solder played for the Patriots and, after he signed with the Giants in 2018, the Solders traveled from New Jersey to Boston on Tuesdays for Hudson’s chemotherapy.
Solder had surgery for testicular cancer in 2014. He and Lexi became parents again this spring, adding another son, Emerson, to their family of five — they also have a daughter, Charlie. Even the most remote chance Solder could go to work and return home with the coronavirus was not a chance he was willing to take.
“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,’’ Solder wrote.
As the Giants player representative to the NFL Players Association, Solder was well-versed in the safety protocol negotiations between the union and the league — unprecedented negotiations amid a pandemic. Back on July 10, Solder tweeted, “If the NFL doesn’t do their part to keep players healthy there is no football in 2020. It’s that simple.’’
There might be football in 2020, but it will not include Solder. He started every game the past two seasons at left tackle after signing what at the time was the richest contract ever (four years, $62 million) for an offensive lineman. He did not come close to living up to that money with his play on the field. The Giants took Andrew Thomas with the No. 4 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft to eventually replace Solder. “Eventually’’ now becomes “immediately,’’ depending on where the Giants deploy veteran Cam Fleming, a “swing’’ offensive tackle who now probably swings directly into the starting lineup, unless all the salary-cap space suddenly at the Giants’ disposal can buy another option.
Solder is a huge, towering man with huge, towering faith. The respect for him in the locker room and front office is immense. Joe Judge, the new head coach, told The Post this offseason, “I believe in Nate Solder. I’m happy Nate Solder is here. I’m very excited to have Nate on the team.’’
He will not be on the team, and if anyone inside (highly doubtful) or outside the organization harbors any negative sentiment regarding this decision, shame on them. Solder was scheduled to make $9.9 million this season and now will collect only the $350,000 stipend the NFL is allowing for high-risk players who opt out.
“We fully recognize that being able to make a decision like this is a privilege,’’ Solder wrote. Indeed, not everyone can opt out of their job with no repercussions, other than financial.
Maybe Solder comes back in 2021 — he now is under contract for two more years, instead of one. Perhaps this is it for him. What this coronavirus should have taught all of us is the foolhardiness of making rigid plans and trying to anticipate what happens next.
“As scary and bleak as it sometimes can be, we know that the God of the universe has all things under His control,’’ Solder wrote, “and His plans are and will always be for our good.”
Fans of the Giants complained a whole lot about Nate Solder. His pass protection, the sacks he allowed, the pressures he failed to prevent. Anyone who appreciates a life lived with Faith and Family should applaud Nate Solder for turning away from Football, for now.