Patriots defensive lineman Armond Armstead has retired, according to a Patriots announcement on Wednesday. The 23-year-old never played a down of football for New England, yet his decision to quit the game is receiving much more attention than most players who retire having never played in the NFL.
Most likely, the decision was medically oriented, though no specific reason was discussed in the release. Armstead, who at one point was a highly recruited defensive tackle in high school, suffered a heart attack while in college at the University of Southern California, and has battled other health problems since then. He still has a pending lawsuit against USC related to the what he believes caused the heart attack, as well as other lingering issues. That he retires so young is disappointing, though obviously it’s the right call to ensure Armstead’s safety.
Armstead received quite a bit of attention because he had such intriguing potential. He most likely would’ve been a high draft pick had he not developed health problems. And even after he went undrafted, he helped a Canadian football team, the Toronto Argonauts, win the Grey Cup in one season playing there.
He showed glimpses of his potential, arriving in New England last year with the hope that he could finally live out his NFL dream. It never happened, unfortunately, as he missed all of the 2013 season with another health concern.
It’s sad for Armstead, and to a lesser extent sad for fans who were looking forward to finally getting a chance to see the talented player take the field in a Patriots uniform. Still, Bill Belichick had only good things to say about him:
It has been a pleasure being around Armond, as he gave everything he could to play for us. Armond worked extremely hard since joining us last February. He’s had a lot of adversity personally that he’s had to deal with – unusual compared to most other players – but he’s always had a great attitude, worked hard and really did everything we asked him to do. While it is unfortunate he will not be able to play football, Armond is an outstanding young man who has a very bright future in whatever path he chooses.
As far as what it means for the Patriots on the field, the retirement changes very little. The effect of Armstead being constantly ruled out has been that the Patriots have constructed their depth independent of him. He would have been a nice addition, but his retirement is no more of a burden on the defensive line than they were already bearing.
The fact is that even without Armstead, the top three perspective Patriots defensive tackles are all returning from injury themselves.
Vince Wilfork: The most experienced member of the Patriots defense is coming back from a torn achilles. He’s been making progress, but can’t be expected to be right back at 100-percent right away in the regular season.
Tommy Kelly: Coming back from a torn ACL, Kelly is healing at a steady pace, though at 33-years-old, he will inevitably remain cautious.
Dominque Easley: The 2014 Patriots first round draft pick, Easley is coming back from two straight seasons of torn ACLs. More than Wilfork or Kelly, he will progress back onto the field slowly.
Most teams would be in trouble if their top three defensive tackles were potentially not available (or most likely limited) before the season had even begun. Fortunately for the Patriots, they went through this last season. So Chris Jones, Sealver Saliga, and Joe Vellano all have pressure moments (and playoff games) under their belts already. It’s an underrated amount of depth.
So while the retirement of Armond Armstead is sad to see for everyone involved, it’s far from a measurable (let alone major) blow to the Patriots defense. Most of all though, hopefully Armstead can regain a long lasting, clean bill of health, even if he can’t fulfill his dream of playing in the NFL.
Screenshot via Patriots.com