Ryquell Armstead was in line to succeed Leonard Fournette as Jacksonville’s starting running back. Then severe COVID-19 complications robbed him of his 2020 NFL season.
Now Armstead is getting a second chance with the Giants, who claimed the 2019 fifth-round pick out of Temple off waivers from the Jaguars on Tuesday.
They may have gotten a steal.
“He has a 100% clean bill of health from multiple doctors,” Jeremy Appledorf, Armstead’s agent at EMG Sports, told the Daily News Tuesday evening. “He’s been cleared of any COVID-related symptoms. He’s ready to get to work with the Giants.”
The team waived quarterback Joe Webb to make room on the 90-man roster.
Armstead, 24, a product of Bridgeton, N.J., and Millville High, was one of two NFL players who made headlines for missing all of last season due to debilitating complications from COVID-19.
The other was Buffalo Bills tight end Tommy Sweeney (Don Bosco Prep, Ramsey, N.J.), who developed myocarditis, a heart condition.
Armstead was hospitalized twice and suffered from various complications, including significant respiratory issues.
He has spent the last five months slowly building himself back up. He weighs about 200 pounds right now. His goal now is to get back to 215-220 pounds at his playing weight.
The best news came in March and early May, though, when Armstead saw two separate doctors who both cleared him for a return to football.
The Jaguars had Armstead see a doctor in North Carolina in early March. He got a second opinion independently in early May. And both doctors told him the same thing: good to go.
That was music to Armstead’s ears. He didn’t intend to sit out 2020.
He had played his first two years at Temple for now-Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule, with 919 rushing yards and 14 TDs as a sophomore for the 10-4 Owls.
He had played in all 16 Jaguars games as a rookie, with 49 touches, including 14 catches, two TDs, and 117 special teams snaps. And he was ready to take off in year two.
“He was not a COVID opt-out,” Appledorf assured. “He wanted to play.”
There were people in the Jaguars organization who saw him as the heir to Fournette’s starting job last offseason.
“Hard runner,” one NFL coach said. “Can’t help on third down but has burst and explosion between the tackles.”
But when Armstead went out long-term, rookie undrafted free agent James Robinson emerged.
The Jaguars then fired their coaching staff and hired Urban Meyer, who drafted Clemson RB Travis Etienne in the first round and signed Tim Tebow to play tight end.
The Giants have almost completely turned over their running back room outside of Saquon Barkley, who is coming off a torn right ACL and partially torn meniscus, and fullback Eli Penny.
Devonta Freeman, Dion Lewis and Alfred Morris are gone. In their place are free agent signings Devontae Booker and Corey Clement, Armstead, and sixth-round pick Gary Brightwell (Arizona).
This means competition but also opportunity for Armstead. This means Joe Judge, Jason Garrett and running backs coach Burton Burns have another young player to hopefully mold into a valuable contributor in multiple phases of an improving Giants team.