(AP) Saints left tackle Terron Armstead rattles off travel destinations that - unfortunately for him - have nothing to do with the kind of jet-setting leisure a big NFL contract affords.
Rather, New Orleans' second-highest-paid offensive player has been on a protracted search for answers about how to stay healthy.
''I've done pretty much everything as far as injury prevention. I've been a lot of places, you know, out of the country, spent a lot of time with different doctors, just trying to get over that hump,'' Armstead said, listing trips to Germany, New York, Minnesota, Texas and Florida, among others. ''I've been pretty much everywhere.''
During the early days of training camp, Armstead - one of the players most responsible for protecting quarterback Drew Brees from potentially devastating blind-side hits - has sounded confident that his journey back to optimum health is nearly complete.
''I was able to start the offseason getting stronger in areas that were injured before,'' Armstead said, explaining that in the past, he wasn't able to train the way he wanted to because previous injuries were still healing. ''So being able to start the offseason getting stronger in areas that I haven't been able to, that was the difference.''
Armstead has missed 15 regular-season games since the Saints signed him to a five-year extension worth about $65 million in 2016. He sat out six games last season and nine the season before that. And when he has played, he often has fought through pain to do so. Last season, he was bothered by a hip injury after coming back from a shoulder injury.
Earlier in his career, he struggled with knee soreness, which led him to seek out the same type of plasma therapy in Germany sought out by high-profile athletes such as former NBA star Kobe Bryant.
During the first days of training camp, coaches and teammates have commented on Armstead's apparent improvements in strength, form and vigor.
''He's not rehabbing. He was training,'' coach Sean Payton said. ''The guys that have been injured have not been really on the ground. You can be on a treadmill or a bike, but it's different when you're actually on the ground playing. So it's good to have him. He's not only an important player for us, but also an important leader.
''He's always been a really good athlete and he's playing well.''
The Saints selected Armstead in the third round of the 2013 draft and elevated him to starter at the end of his rookie season. While Armstead spent his college career largely out of the limelight at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, NFL personnel took notice when he ran 40 yards in 4.71 seconds at the NFL scouting combine. In other words, when healthy, he moves well for someone listed at 6-foot-5, 304 pounds.
Veteran guard Larry Warford, now in his second season in New Orleans, describes Armstead's recent form as ''unbelievable.''
''Even compared to last year, I think he's vastly improved - and that's saying a lot because he was damn good last year,'' Warford said. ''I'm excited to see him this season because I think he's going to be a dominant player.
''It's hard to appreciate if you're not an offensive lineman, but just the intent of everything he does is superior. It's top-notch,'' Warford continued. ''There's a lot of natural ability that goes into that as well, but you can see that he's been working. I know he's felt bad about missing (games in past seasons) and so he just got his body right and got healthy.''
Armstead's athleticism doesn't merely present challenges for defensive ends trying to pressure Brees. His ability to move fast thwarts linebackers chasing running plays across the field.
Saints second-year linebacker Alex Anzalone said he's seen Armstead do plenty of that in practice.
''For a big guy, he rolls really well,'' Anzalone said.
Armstead said that earlier in his career, he ''never knew why things kept happening'' to take him out of action. And while he knows there's no guaranteeing one's health in the NFL, he asserts that his grasp of everything from how muscle groups work together to injury prevention is far superior to what it was a few years ago.
''I mean, it's football,'' Armstead said. ''Things happen for sure, but I'm on top of anything I can do to prevent it and be out there for my team.''
Saints first-round draft choice, defensive end Marcus Davenport, and veteran tight end Ben Watson both missed their fourth straight practices with undisclosed ailments on Saturday.
Also not practicing were OL John Fullington, DB JT Gray, TE Micheal Hoomanawanui, DB Kamrin Moore, C Cameron Tom and RB Shane Vereen.
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