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New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara shows no rust after return following 10-day absence

'I wasn't worried about the physical at all. Just the mental'

Game action photos from the New Orleans Saints vs. Chicago Bears matchup in the Wild Card round of the 2020 NFL playoffs.

Some can't do what Alvin Kamara did.

Most, probably.

It's true that NFL players have contracted Covid-19 this season and, with varying degrees of success, have returned to the field after being quarantined, physically missing practices and meetings while perhaps taking part virtually, and missing at least one game.

Kamara did it without noticeably missing a step. Literally, he hit the ground running.

After sitting out the regular-season finale against Carolina – Kamara and the entire running backs room missed the game, after he tested positive and everyone else were held out due to contact tracing – he ran for 99 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries in New Orleans' 21-9 Wild Card victory over Chicago.

Teammates figuratively shrugged in a "That's A.K." kind of way in response, fitting because things routinely seem to go A.K.'s way.

The fourth-year running back tied an NFL record with six rushing touchdowns in a Christmas Day victory over Minnesota, and finished the regular-season with a franchise-record 21 touchdowns, including 16 rushing (another franchise mark).

While missing a game due to contracting Covid-19 wouldn't fit into anyone's dream scenario, Kamara routinely has shown the ability to produce a positive from most scenarios.

"I think a lot of it is mental," he said Thursday. "It's a long season, you've got to be in for the physical grind. But if you can keep your mind in line I think it gives you that much more room for success.

"My 10 days (away from the team), I was kind of really just trying to keep my mind right. Like, OK, I'm out, I can't do anything as far as practice and meetings in person and stuff like that. And I'm not even talking about mental like in the meetings, the Zoom calls and stuff like that, because obviously I had to do that. I'm just talking about me, personally, making sure I'm on point and I'm not getting out of my season form as far as my mind goes.

"The physical, I wasn't worried about the physical at all. Just the mental, making sure I'm still locked in and making sure, like, I've got a playoff game to play. I have Coronavirus and I'm at home, I'm sitting, I'm on the couch, whatever. But I can't lose focus of the fact that we still have football to play."

He played, and teammates couldn't help but take note of what he was able to do.

"Every time Alvin steps on the field it's impressive," center Erik McCoy said. "That's just the type of player he is. But especially without a week of practice, without a week of the game plan and to go for almost 100 yards rushing. I think like (116) total (yards from scrimmage), is crazy, it's insane really.

"But, it's just like, the type of athlete that he is, the attention to detail that he has, even when he's not in the building. And it's the type of player that he is. He's special, really special."

What made it all the more impressive is that Kamara's teammates previously had seen the toll taken on left tackle Terron Armstead when he contracted Covid-19.

"Honestly, you're just impressed the entire time," McCoy said. "When Terron (Armstead) came back from his Coronavirus, that first game was an adjustment period for him. He was still feeling a little sick, a little slow.

"But for Alvin to come back and be right back to where he was, I was on the sidelines impressed – breaking tackles, showing off his rare balance, athleticism, skill. Kind of in awe at the things that he can do, especially coming off the virus."

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