Jeff Okudah has worked hard on getting his speed back after tearing his Achilles in the season opener a year ago.
The Lions cornerback traveled around the United States and ventured into Canada seeking out the best specialists to help get him back on the football field.
Friday night’s preseason opener could be a big step in the process. For many players coming back from a lengthy injury taking that first hit is big. But it’s more than that for Okudah who the Lions drafted with the third overall pick in 2020.
“That’s always big making that first play, but I think it’s getting out there and participating just being out there with the crowd’s energy. I think that will be big for me as well,’’ Okudah said after Wednesday’s training camp.
He said as far as physically he thinks everything has gone smoothly in training camp.
“I’m my toughest critic but trying not to be too hard on myself after not playing in 11 months,’’ Okudah said.
The cornerback is listed behind Amani Oruwariye and Will Harris on the depth chart that coach Dan Campbell calls “unofficially official.”
“The way I approach it, I always feel like there’s competition so even when there wasn’t really a competition I always take everything as competition,’’ OKudah said. “I always demanded that out of myself.”
Campbell said they have no concern about Okudah’s Achilles.
“Physically he looks great. He needs reps. He needs reps, he needs to play, I mean that’s the thing that we can never lose sight of. I mean, he’s going into Year Three and he really hasn’t played. I mean he just hasn’t had significant playing time,’’ Campbell said.
In his rookie season Okudah struggled through a variety of injuries and only played nine games. In 2021 he was lost for the season in the opener.
Friday night’s preseason game should provide a clue about where Okudah stands with the regular season about a month away.
(The Lions open the preseason at 6 p.m. on Friday against the Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field.)