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In October 2020, Ryquell Armstead's second NFL season ended before it started thanks to reported complications from COVID-19.
On Thursday — three days before his slated return to an active NFL roster — he revealed that he developed myocarditis as part of a severe bout with COVID-19 that left him unable to work out for almost an entire year.
The Jacksonville Jaguars signed Armstead on Wednesday from the Green Bay Packers practice squad after placing Carlos Hyde on injure reserve. Now the same team that drafted him in 2019 and cut him in May will guarantee Armstead game checks and a spot on the 53-man roster for the final three weeks of the regular season.
Armstead detailed his road back from COVID-19 to the Associated Press on Thursday. He spent the entire 2020 season on the NFL's reserve/COVID list after testing positive during Jaguars training camp. He was later hospitalized with respiratory issues before developing myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. According to the CDC, myocarditis develops when "the body’s immune system causes inflammation in response to an infection or some other trigger."
The Jaguars released Armstead last offseason, and he's since spent brief stints with the New York Giants, New Orleans Saints and Packers practice squads. On Sunday, he'll join a Jaguars backfield that also features James Robinson and Dare Ogunbowale against the New York Jets.
“It took me a couple months to get back to feeling myself, just weight-wise, explosive, lifting-wise," Armstead told AP. "You got to understand, I didn’t lift in eight, nine months. I didn’t do anything. I couldn’t physically. Just to get back is a blessing.”
Armstead, 25, tallied 252 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns as a fifth-round rookie out of Temple in 2019. He was slated to take on a larger role in Jacksonville's offense in 2020 before COVID-19 derailed his health and his career. He said that his recovery afforded him more time with his parents and his 1- and 5-year-old children.
“I got to enjoy my family,” Armstead said. “It was a blessing in disguise. I got to relax. I got to sit back and enjoy my family, enjoy my kids, just do what they want to do. Be a dad. Just not take anything for granted. I cherish every moment now, and when it was time for me to step up out of my comfort zone and get back to where I need to be, I took that step.”
Now, medically cleared and back in game shape, Armstead has a shot to reboot his NFL career on a team desperate for help.