Imagine all your buddies are outside playing football and you’re home sick and watching forlornly through your bedroom window. Now you have an idea how Arik Armstead feels.
Except the 49ers’ first-round draft pick is healthy and more than willing to join the fun.
“I wish I was doing something,” Armstead said from his hometown of Sacramento, a two-hour drive from 49ers headquarters. “I like to keep myself busy. This rule has it that I can’t participate, so I try to stay busy as best I can.”
The NFL rule that has snagged Armstead says rookies can’t participate in their new team’s offseason program – except for the rookie minicamp – until after their school’s final spring exams.
Final exams at most schools end in early May, which is why nine of the 49ers’ 10 draft picks have been on hand throughout the team’s recent organized team activity sessions. Oregon, where Armstead played defensive end, is on the quarter system, with final exams next week. Armstead said he’ll be able to join his teammates June 12.
Until then, his routine is simple: “Wake up, work out, relax, study my playbook and work out again. That’s all I’ve been pretty much doing.”
Playbooks no longer are 5-inch-thick plastic binders. Instead they are downloaded onto iPads, one of which Armstead received when he arrived at 49ers headquarters last month. He said the team’s defensive concepts are similar to what he did with the Ducks. The two systems, however, use different names for the same plays, and his challenge this spring has been learning a new lexicon.
The NFL rule does not cut players off altogether. The 49ers can call or email Armstead with instructions or updates. Practices also are downloaded daily, and Armstead said he has been able to review the sessions even though he has not participated in them.
Stamina also should not be an issue when he arrives.
Armstead hired a trainer who puts the 292-pound defensive lineman through a workout at a downtown Sacramento gym. Later, he heads to Sport Courts Fitness near Mather Airport where his dad, Guss Armstead, trains basketball players ranging from elite high school stars to professionals. Arik Armstead played basketball and football at Oregon until last season, when he focused solely on football.
He said if he can keep pace with 155-pound high school players as they run wind sprints, he’ll consider himself in good shape.
“I’ll run with them,” he said. “I’m not playing. I’m not trying to get hurt.”
The 49ers will hold a mandatory minicamp Tuesday through Thursday next week. Armstead can arrive one day after the minicamp ends. The team then will hold rookie workouts for a week before breaking for a month until the start of training camp.
The NFL rule is aimed at keeping young players in school and encouraging them to get their degrees. There are 90 players trying to make 53-man squads in the NFL, and many of the rookies will be cut by mid-September.
Armstead said an education is important and he plans to finish his degree at a later date. But now, he said, he is concentrating on football.
He stopped taking classes after Oregon’s fall quarter and began training full time for the scouting combine and draft. He left school as a junior and said he is 40 credits shy of a degree.
With that in mind, he wonders why he can’t take part in his chosen pursuit.
“I’m a football player now,” he said. “And I want to be focused on the season and playing football. I’m not in school right now. I think I have plenty of time (to get a degree). But that’s not my main focus now.”