After a truly “nightmarish” first two NFL seasons, Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah is ready to put it behind behind him.
Jeff Okudah’s rookie season with the Detroit Lions did not go great, as he battled injuries and was eventually shut down with a core muscle injury. Hope was easy in 2021, with a new coaching staff and the idea of better health.
But it was not to be, as the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 draft suffered a torn Achilles in Week 1 against the San Francisco 49ers and missed the rest of the season.
Optimism has been high around Okudah as he works his way back. Head coach Dan Campbell expressed confidence Okudah will be ready for training camp at OTAs this last week, while also citing the mental hurdle the third-year corner has to get over coming back from a major injury.
On Thursday, Okudah spoke after practice. Via Tim Twentyman of the Lions’ website, he cited some of the struggle. In particular, in the car with his aunt after the Week 1 injury.
Jeff Okudah looking to put his ‘nightmare’ behind him
"I just had big hopes for that last year. That day I was really down. It kind of felt like I was living a nightmare.”"
In further comments, cited by NFL.com, Okudah talked about being hungry to prove himself.
"I feel like I’ve been hungry like I haven’t ate in years,” “That hunger has just been inside of me since the injury. Really, even before the injury, so I’ve had that feeling, man, it’s about to be two years. Just that hunger. So, I’m ready to go out there and just play to the best of my ability.”"
The spot opposite Amani Oruwariye as an outside cornerback is open for the Lions. Okudah has seen first-team OTA reps at that spot, but he could also end up playing some in the slot. He has dismissed the faint notion he could be moved to safety, which has never seemed like it was going to happen anyway.
Frankly, Okudah’s first two seasons couldn’t have gone much worse than they did. There’s nowhere to go but up, and 2022 is a big campaign for him.