Minnesota WR Bateman opts out to pursue draft preparation

The Minnesota Gophers hope to resume season after a COVID-19 outbreak canceled Saturday’s rivalry game at Wisconsin, but standout wide receiver Rashod Bateman won’t be a part of it.

Bateman opted out of what remains of Minnesota’s season on Wednesday with a Twitter announcement that he will skip the rest of the 2020 season to begin to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.

“After further dialogue with Coach Fleck and my family, we decided that after this most recent Covid-19 outbreak and the cancellation of this weekend’s game, that it made the most sense to begin to focus on the next stage of my career,” Bateman posted.

The Gophers (2-3) halted practice Monday before formally shutting the team down for the week on Tuesday. The program has announced 15 positive COVID-19 cases, with nine players and six staff members, with more presumed positives possible on the way.

Bateman was one of the first notable players to opt out of the season in August after becoming sick with COVID-19 during the summer. He changed his mind and returned to the team when the Big Ten announced it was resuming its season with new safety protocols.

Bateman had signed with an agency and took money for housing and other expenses after opting out the first time, but received special dispensation from the NCAA that allowed him to return for the 2020 season.

Bateman, projected to be a first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, racked up 36 catches for 472 yards and two touchdowns in five games this season for Minnesota. Bateman was named the Big Ten Receiver of the Year in 2019 after catching 60 passes for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns.