Amid coronavirus slowdown, Arik Armstead tries to boost Sacramento-area restaurants

Tribune Content Agency

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The big guy has always been a big giver.

Arik Armstead has used his role and fame as a 49ers defensive lineman as a platform to pique awareness, everything from fitness to academics — be active, eat wisely, read and study.

This week, the 6-foot-7, 285-pound defensive lineman pledged more giving to his home base of Elk Grove, where he was a star at Pleasant Grove High School, and Sacramento, which he says “is always dear to my heart.”

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the restaurant industry across the state to a near crawl, if not a complete shutdown. In an effort to help his regional home base, Armstead has pledged to give away 49ers game tickets and signed memorabilia to those who eat local with pictorial proof on his Instagram and Twitter thread.

To this end, Armstead has used his game jersey No. 91 with social-media hashtags to tie in Sacramento’s area code of 916: #Eat91Six and #stayhungry.

“I saw how the coronavirus really hit our local economy, and I wanted to do something to help,” Armstead said by phone Friday. “I wanted to do what I could to help and wanted to do something creative to help small businesses. Restaurants do a lot for a local economy, so we want people to continue to go to those places for take out to help them in this time of need.”

He added, “I love Sacramento dearly. I feel for people who are hurting. I know a lot of people who have small businesses, and I want to see my city prosper and grow and get better.”

Armstead said he has been amazed by the outpouring of support, “It’s been a great response. People are tagging me on social media with their favorite restaurants. It’s been a win-win. People can still get great food, help the business, and they could get some cool items such as tickets and signed items.”

Armstead’s longtime pal Shaq Thompson, a linebacker for the Carolina Panthers, has also pledged to assist similarly at eateries for his home town. He is a Grant High graduate. Armstead and Thompson worked out together for weeks before becoming first-round NFL picks in 2015.

“Shaq, that’s my brother,” Armstead said. “We’re all in this together.”


Armstead has been in Florida for much of this month, his last trip to the state since the 49ers lost the Super Bowl to Kansas City. He is working out with a personal trainer, a group of five that includes onetime 49ers teammate DeForest Buckner, now with the Indianapolis Colts after a March 16 trade. Armstead earlier this month signed a five-year, $85 million deal but that hasn’t slowed his drive any.

“I’ve been working on conditioning here, my cardio, anything to get better,” Armstead said.

He’s doing so with increased awareness of social distancing and hygiene.

“We’re trying not to train in a crowd, to wash hands, to clean off work stations, to be smart,” Armstead said.

The coronavirus has placed a lot on hold, including the sports world with suspended NBA and NHL seasons, a delay to the start of Major League Baseball and even a shutdown of NFL franchise complexes.

“It’s all up in the air for a lot of people,” Armstead said. “We all have to take it day by day. We all need to get as much knowledge about this virus and do the best we can.”


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