After spending a rookie season behind Leonard Fournette in 2019, Ryquell Armstead was supposed to contend for the Jacksonville Jaguars’ starting job. Yesterday, ESPN reported that the second-year back will miss the remainder of the season due to COVID.
In case you forgot, young and healthy people can be severely impacted by this virus, too.
According to the ESPN report, Armstead has been hospitalized twice and has encountered a number of complications including “significant respiratory distress.”
Armstead was first placed on the COVID reserve list in August during training camp. He stayed on the list for 19 days but was put back on before Week 1. At that point, Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said the running back will “be out a while.”
Nearly two months later, Armstead, a 23-year-old professional athlete, will have to miss the entire season due to COVID-19.
We’ve heard that this virus does not affect young people. We’ve heard athletes, in peak physical condition, will be fine if they contract this deadly disease. That, of course, is not true.
Dozens of pro athletes have contracted the virus and many have recovered and returned to the playing field. In the NFL, entire teams have had outbreaks and get to play the next week. But COVID affects every person differently and the long-term impacts of the virus are still not yet known.
The uncertainty of a global health crisis led many in the sports media to question whether the risk to play amidst a pandemic was really worth it.
It certainly was not for Ryquell Armstead — who will spend the next few months fighting and recovering from the virus.
COVID could hurt Armstead’s future in the league, too. Running backs in the NFL have one of the shortest career spans amongst all positions. And while Armstead is expected to return next season at “full strength,” who knows if he’ll be good enough to sustain an NFL career beyond three years.
Armstead is the first NFL player to be sidelined beyond the league-mandated quarantine period. Hopefully, he is the last.
But we are not even halfway through the NFL calendar. There are 10 weeks of regular-season football left, assuming the league doesn’t add more weeks to the season — a move the league would rather not make, as it would affect playoff scheduling. But fans are returning to stadiums and, meanwhile, COVID cases in the United States are hitting record numbers.
“It’s scary,” defensive end Calais Campbell recently told PennLive.com about his teammate’s diagnosis. The two are friends and have stayed in touch throughout Armstead’s two hospitalizations. “This is a serious thing we’re dealing with,” he said.
“For it to be severe and harmful to one person is too many.”