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ALLEN PARK, Mich. – The Detroit Lions are confident cornerback Jeff Okudah will be ready for training camp ahead of the 2022 season.
The overall No. 3 in the 2020 draft, Okudah was hit by a season-ending that left the Achilles tear early in the fourth quarter of Detroit’s 2021 opening game against the San Francisco 49ers. Now that he’s on his way back to the field, the organization is focused on the confidence aspect of his recovery as much as the physical process.
“It’s the biggest thing right now,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “We’re not worried about Jeff’s mobility. You see him, with his footwork and the things he does, he can do it all.
“It’s really important right now … just to continue his growth mentally and that he’s able to get consistent reps and just to get the film studio. Those things are big for him right now. So it’s good to have him here, to have him available to do it. When the time comes, to drive at full speed, when we get him in camp, he will be ready. “
Throughout the rehab process, Okudah said he reached out to NBA players John Wall, who tore his Achilles to pieces in December 2018, and DeMarcus Cousins, who tore his in January 2018, for advice on how they were able to to recover from the injury. He also examined Achilles tears to become more aware of his own situation.
“They just kind of gave me the confidence that Achilles will be the least of your worries,” Okudah said. “It’s going to be about getting back mentally, taking care of the rest of your body, and for me it was really reassuring to go into the rehab process. So from there, it was just attacking the rehab since November.”
Okudah went into last season with high expectations. But he has admitted to having hit an emotional low point in his aunt’s car hours after the injury happened.
“When I tore my Achilles to pieces, I just got my aunt to pick me up and I could not really walk,” he said. “Did not know for sure if it was a torn Achilles, but apparently I was trying to remain optimistic in such moments. But the second I got into the car with my aunt, I just broke down and started crying.
“A lot of emotions flowed over me and she has never really seen me cry before, but I just had high hopes for the last year. So that day I was down and it felt like I was living a nightmare, honestly. So being here right now and smiling is a blessing because I know where I was mentally and I got far. “
Okudah is limited through organized team activities this summer. He would not set a schedule for his return, but he said he is confident he will “be ready when it’s time to be ready.”
Campbell said he has been “greatly encouraged” with his rehabilitation process.
“He attacked the surgery, the rehab, he was up here a lot,” Campbell said. “We saw a lot of him. I wanted to be around. So he wanted to be up here and see ties with the guys, be to meetings.
“Sometimes he had come out to practice or run out there, and then he was still engaged and wanted to be with. Look, he did a pretty good job with it. There again, it’s not easy, it’s a difficult thing. to do., but it’s better than just disconnecting completely and being away from it, and I do not think that is good for you either. ”