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E.J. Gaines opts out of NFL season

Examiner staff and wire reports
Buffalo Bills cornerback E.J. Gaines (28), a Fort Osage High School graduate and former Missouri standout, has opted out of the 2020 season because of concerns over COVID-19 after missing the 2019 season with an injury.

Fort Osage High School graduate E.J. Gaines will not play in the NFL for a second straight season.

Buffalo GM Brandon Beane announced during a conference with the media on Sunday that the Bills cornerback – who missed the 2019 season with a core injury – was sitting out the 2020 season because of concerns about COVID-19. Gaines is the second member of the Bills to opt out on the 2020 season, joining defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.

Gaines, 28, was expected to compete for a depth role in Buffalo’s secondary in his third stint with the team.

Beane announced on Sunday that Gaines opted out because of family reasons.

Gaines, a 2014 sixth-round draft pick by the St. Louis Rams out of Missouri, originally signed with the Bills in 2017 after two seasons with the Rams. He started 11 games that season and played well. The cornerback recorded 59 total tackles, one interception and nine passes defensed. When Gaines started, the Bills went 8-3 that season. Groin and hamstring injuries shortened his first campaign in Buffalo.

After a one-year stint in Cleveland, Gaines signed with the Bills ahead of the 2019 season. A groin injury during training camp ended his season before it ever began as the team placed him on the IR.

He re-signed with Buffalo in late March – inking a one-year contract with a $910,000 base salary – and was expected to provide depth behind the likes of Tre’Davious White, Levi Wallace, Josh Norman and Taron Johnson. That role is now open for the taking.

Gaines will receive a $150,000 stipend this year, then he will make $760,000 with Buffalo in 2021.

The Bills sent their rookies home on Thursday after five players tested positive for the coronavirus, electing to conduct virtual meetings instead as an additional precaution.

"We were just trying to be smart and make sure we had our arms around it," Beane said of the decision to send rookies home. "This is something that we're learning everyday as you see across the country and we're no different. And we're just trying to keep it (contained) ...

"And there may be more days where we say, 'Hey, we've got a couple guys popped up, they've been around another 15-20 guys. Let's just send everybody home, let another round of tests come in and make sure we're good.' Because we're trying to take the long view, similar to how we're trying to build this team. As much as we want to be out there every day, we'd rather lose one day or two days than lose 10-14, half our team or anything like that."

"I just know that there's no playbook for this out there," Bills coach Sean McDermott said. "I can't stress that enough. When we did send the rookies home the other day, I received multiple calls, as did Brandon, from multiple people around the league. ... We want to be smart. We want to be responsible and as I try and communicate to our players and our staff, safety is always No. 1."

The Bills signed cornerback Akeem King to help replace Gaines. King has played in 34 games and entered the league as a seventh-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 2015.

Ryan Talbot of syracuse.com and Mark Ludwiczak of the Associated Press contributed to this report.