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Gophers star WR Rashod Bateman not returning to team

Bateman, among the top wideouts in the nation, posted a video on Instagram saying uncertainty over the COVID-19 pandemic was behind his decision.
Credit: AP
Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman (13) carries the ball into the end zone for a touchdown against Wisconsin during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

MINNEAPOLIS — The uncertainty surrounding the 2020-21 college football season just grew for the Minnesota Gophers, who will no longer have the services of star wideout Rashod Bateman.

Bateman, one of the top returning wide receivers in the nation and a projected high NFL draft choice, announced on Instagram Tuesday that he would not return to the Gophers. Bateman cited concern over COVID-19 as the main reason behind his decision. 

“Unfortunately, in light of the uncertainty on the health and safety with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Bateman said in the video. “I have set my wishes aside for the wellness of my family, community and beyond. Because of this I have decided to opt-out of the 2020 college football season. I will be taking the next steps in my journey by declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft."

Bateman had a breakout season as a sophomore, catching 60 passes for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was named the Big Ten's Richter–Howard Receiver of the Year, and was one of 12 finalists for the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver. Bateman was named All-Big Ten First Team and AP Third-Team All-America.

RELATED: Gophers' Rashod Bateman named Big Ten Receiver of the Year

Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck posted on Twitter that Bateman informed the team of his decision not to return Tuesday morning. "He was a joy to coach, and has developed into an NFL-caliber player," Fleck wrote. "We could not be more proud of Rashod's historic and All-American career at Minnesota."

Bateman says he will now begin training and preparing for the 2021 NFL draft, but insists he will not forget his teammates, the Gophers' coaching staff or the fans. 

"Minnesota will forever be a place I was lucky enough to call home," Bateman insisted on Instagram. "Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, I love you all.”