T.J. Hockenson gave a sideways glance and flashed a big smile.
Three weeks after admitting he was still favoring the ankle he injured late last season, the second-year tight end expressed no reservations about his health heading into Sunday’s season opener against the Chicago Bears.
“It’s 100%,” Hockenson said Thursday.
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If that’s true, Hockenson could be headed for a big season as a major part of the Detroit Lions’ passing game this fall.
He opened his rookie campaign with a record-setting six-catch, 131-yard day against the Arizona Cardinals, then went quiet for most of the rest of last year.
Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has vowed to get his tight ends more involved in the offense this season, and Hockenson promises to get the bulk of whatever targets come their way.
“It’s a cool aspect (that he said that, but) we still need to do our job,” Hockenson said. “They can try to get us the ball as much as we want, but we still got to get open.”
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Hockenson appears more equipped to do that this season, and not just because he bulked up his 6 feet 5, 250-pound frame this offseason.
Last year’s inconsistent season also taught Hockenson to be more focused on the moment.
“It doesn’t really matter what you did yesterday, it doesn’t really matter what you did an hour ago, what you did a year ago, but what you’re doing now,” he said. “I think in that aspect, I’ve tried to learn from that and you’re always trying to prove something. Whether it’s good or bad, you’re trying to go out there and do your job and keep proving yourself.”
Reflecting on 9-11
Friday marks the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. For Lions coach Matt Patricia, who grew up in upstate New York and has family in Long Island, “that was and still is a pretty significant moment.”
“I think people go through their lives and have those moments where everybody remembers exactly where they were when things happened,” Patricia said. “I was coaching at Syracuse University at the time. I remember exactly where I was, I was with one of the players and kind of the thoughts that went through my head initially when I saw it, and then how quickly everything turned.”
Patricia said the 24 hours immediately after the attacks were “certainly one of the scarier times” of his life as he and others scrambled to reach their friends and family by phone.
Syracuse hosted Auburn in a football game 11 days later, and then New York Gov. George Pataki addressed the crowd before kickoff.
“I had some of my closest friends that lived in the city at the time and the concern and the fear, all of it that went along with it, I still think about it,” Patricia said. “Obviously (Friday), that will be a big part of that day and making sure that we do remember all of the people that were lost, all of those that sacrificed and certainly that event and what that meant to the country. It’s definitely something that I think about a lot. Coaching at Syracuse, we were actually the first sporting event in the state of New York after 9-11 (and) you could feel the power and the impact of what that was after an event like that. Pretty serious. Pretty real still, for me.”
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