Inevitably, if you ask Terron Armstead what drives him, he gets around to saying how much he takes pride in being available for "my guys."
His New Orleans Saints teammates always have taken notice, and perhaps never more so than this season, when those teammates voted him to be the recipient of the team's Ed Block Courage Award.
The award annually is presented to a player from each NFL team who has persevered through adversity.
Armstead, who earned a Pro Bowl spot for the third time this season and was an All-Pro in 2018, missed two games this season while on the reserve/Covid-19 list. But he also waded through several injuries and a couple of personal losses.
"It's been tough," he said. "Honestly speaking, it's been a challenge, and still has every day. I've got to keep reminding myself to stay focused and lock in day after day.
"I lost somebody that raised me. I followed him throughout my entire life, and I lost the closest person to me, so it's been extremely tough. It's been a tough challenge – 2020 has been tough for everybody for many different reasons. I lost another cousin the day before New Year's Eve to gun violence back home, so family has been dealing with another tragedy. It's been really difficult.
"I try to use the game and lean on family to daily get up and go to work. It's great being around the team and having those brothers, showing love and support to each other. I'm going to keep going to the best of my ability, keep pushing, being a beacon of positivity for my family, my nameplate on the back of my jersey, for the city. Definitely the most difficult time in my life but we're getting better and I hope for the team to be better."
Armstead's teammates know and understand the weight he has played under.
"He's faced a lot," defensive end Cam Jordan said. "He's overcome a lot of adverse situations for sure this year, without speaking on what he has gone over. We know how much football means to 'T,' we know how much of a family that this team embodies toward Terron and we're always there for him. For him to be one of the best left tackles in the game – one of the best tackles, period, in the game – and seemingly overcome everything that he has this season alone, it just goes to how much he's invested in our team."
"I definitely don't think anyone is more deserving than Terron for that award this year," linebacker Demario Davis said. "The things that he has had to go through this season and had to endure, and still be able to stay focused and locked in to come perform at a high level for this team, just speaks volumes about who he is as a person. The steadiness of his character and the dependability that you can have in him, and he's playing some of his best football.
"And so, whatever he's had to do to channel it all mentally, he's done it well and is definitely worthy of applause."
POSSIBLE RETURNS: As formidable as the Saints' offense was in the last two regular-season games, scoring 85 points on 11 touchdowns in victories over Minnesota and Carolina, Armstead said the team undoubtedly would be boosted by the returns of running back Alvin Kamara and receiver Michael Thomas. Kamara missed the Carolina game after being placed on the reserve/Covid-19 list, and Thomas was on injured reserve the final three regular-season games. Barring any setbacks, Kamara would be eligible to play in Sunday's Wild Card playoff game against Chicago in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and Thomas possibly could come off injured reserve depending on his progress.
"It'd be huge," Armstead said. "We're talking two great young players that have produced time and time again. Without question, that would be great and would uplift the team, and everything else. I think our depth is incredible across the board. The things that the guys were able to do in the secondary with those guys missing was incredible. Looking forward to having those guys back, it'd be a positive if they're healthy and cleared. If not, we've got to go out and win. We've got to go out and execute."