Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard was hoping to have a breakout year in 2020, and after four games, he was on pace to have career-highs in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. However, in Week 4 against the Chargers, Howard ruptured his Achilles tendon, which caused him to miss the rest of the season.
The 26-year-old is back, and according to Howard, the Achilles is feeling good.
“It’s awesome to be back. I’m just working to get back to where I want to be,” Howard said on Monday. “It’s good to be back around the guys and be in the huddle again. The Achilles feels good. It’s just one day at a time for me right now, but I’m just so happy to be back.”
Coming back from a ruptured Achilles is never easy, but the 19th overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft feels he’s slowly getting back to himself.
“My conditioning level is really good right now but getting into football shape, of course, is different,” he said. “We’re getting it in, but we’re being smart about it. The most important thing for us is Sept. 9 and playing weeks after that.”
The goal for the five-year veteran is to get better in all aspects of the game. Howard worked on his run blocking and his pass-catching in the offseason, which he discussed on Monday.
“I just tried to study every aspect of my game,” he said. “I took the top guys in my position pass-catching wise and took the top of my position run blocking wise. I studied all six of them. I just tried to steal things from their tapes and try to evaluate my game. I think it’s been translating over to the field as I’ve been getting acclimated to the field.
“As far as my production on the team this year, I think I’ll be able to come in and make plays when it’s time. We’ll have our opportunities based on who we have out in our receiver corps. My position, in general, is going to have a chance to open the middle and make plays, so when we get those chances, we must be ready. I think we’ll have a lot of those this year.”
This is a big year for Howard, who can be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. If he wants to get big money, whether with the Bucs or elsewhere, he has to prove he’s back from the injury, and he has to produce.