SANTA CLARA — Not too long ago, 49ers defensive lineman Arik Armstead had trouble staying on the field and was labeled as someone who was not living up to first-round expectations.
Armstead only was able to suit up for 14 games from 2016-2017, landing on injured reserve both seasons. But fast-forward to Week 7 of 2019, and Armstead is making a case for huge contract after he closes out his fifth season with San Francisco.
Armstead is set to have a career-best season, as he's already racked up 2.5 sacks, four quarterback hits, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, and 20 total tackles, four of which were for a loss. The 49ers defense has been bolstered by several offseason additions, including edge rushers Dee Ford and Nick Bosa, and Armstead has been reaping the rewards.
“It’s been great,” Armstead told NBC Sports Bay Area. “As a whole defense, they’ve had a big impact. It’s fun playing with great players. Those guys are extremely talented and they bring a whole different element to the defense.”
With the edges sealed up, Armstead has been able to enjoy putting his hand in the dirt next to long-time teammate DeForest Buckner. The two have been playing together since their time at the University of Oregon. Both former Ducks stand 6-foot-7, and limit a quarterback's downfield vision tremendously.
“Super fun, like it’s always been going out there with a great friend,” Armstead said. “We’ve been going to battle together for a long time. Just trying to go out there and dominate and have an impact on our team like we have had over the years.”
Armstead won’t admit thinking about if his NFL future includes playing with the 49ers beyond this year. He has been focused on each opponent as they come, while enjoying the team’s victories -- at least just a little bit.
“I’m just taking it week by week,” Armstead said. “Contract stuff, it’s out of my control. Nobody really knows what’s going to happen with that. All I can focus on is preparing for the game and try to go out there and dominate and win my matchups and show what I can do.”
Armstead has used his production on the field not only to increase his own future contract value, but also to fund equal opportunities in education for underserved youth in his home town of Sacramento. He is donating $1,000 dollars for every sack and $250 for every tackle he makes this season to his foundation. He previously raised $100,000 at his charity gala to fund programs.
One of the events that Armstead created with his foundation was a trip for 30 students to spend the entire day at 49ers headquarters. They participated in a career panel with 49ers employees as well as getting a tour of the facility.
For more information on donating to Armstead’s foundation, visit www.arikarmstead91.com.