Perhaps one of the happiest Lions to be participating — on a limited basis — in OTAs is cornerback Jeff Okudah who tore his Achilles tendon in September’s season opener and was forced to miss the final 16 games.
“I’m enjoying to the fullest extent you can enjoy something. For me, I couldn’t walk to the restroom in September, I had to retrain my whole body,’’ Okudah said after Thursday’s practice. “To be able to be out here and do drills, whatever I can do, is a blessing because there wasn’t a guarantee I’d be out here so I’m taking in everything and enjoying every moment.’’
Okudah won’t exactly say if he’ll be ready for training camp in July.
“I’ve thought about that question for a long time,’’ he said. “The best way to describe it is I’m going to be ready when it’s time to be ready. I’m confident I’ll be ready when it’s time to be ready.’’
Lions coach Dan Campbell takes it a step farther. He does expect the cornerback, the third overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft, to be ready to go for camp.
“I’m very encouraged. We know the surgery went well and just the rehab process, like I feel really good about this, just where he’s come and where the injury is at. I feel like he’s right where he needs to be,’’ Campbell said on Thursday.
Okudah and Campbell both mentioned the importance of being in the right mental frame of mind.
The cornerback talked to athletes who had been through Achilles surgery to find out what to expect.
“They gave me the confidence that the Achilles will be the least of your worries. It will be about getting back mentally and taking care of the rest of your body,’’ Okudah said.
He has been attacking rehab since he got the foot in an orthopedic boot in November.
“We’re not worried about Jeff’s movement skills. He’s going to be able to move. You watch him with his footwork and the things he’s doing, he can do all that. That is real important right now, just continue his growth mentally. Him to be able to get the walk-through reps and then just to get the film study, it’s big for him,’’ Campbell said. “So it’s good to have him here. Then when the time’s right, to go full speed when we get him in camp, he’ll be ready.’’
Okudah, who played in nine games his rookie season, said it has not been hard to stay mentally focused through the rehab.
“My drive just took over. I’ve been hungry like I haven’t ate in years,’’ Okudah said. “That hunger has been inside of me since the injury, even before the injury, so I’ve had that feeling for probably two years, that hunger. I’m ready to go out there and play to the best of my ability.’’
The 23-year-old cornerback said his mental state prior to the injury helped him be in a good place.
“Obviously when you have a big injury you’re going to be down for a little bit, but being around people who have love for you,’’ Okudah said. “They picked me back up, to be here today to be in a great mental spot. I’m blessed.’’